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family parties desiring to profit by this method of satisfying themselves as to the reality of a 'spirit world,' and of putting themselves in communication with it :
1. Let the room be of a comfortable temperature, but cool rather than warm—let arrangements be made that nobody shall enter it, and that there shall be no interruption for one hour during the sitting of the circle. Wet, damp, and foggy weather is bad for the production of physical phenomena.
12. Let the circle consist of four, five, or six individuals, about the same number of each sex. Sit round an uncovered wooden table, with all the palms of the hands in contact with its top surface. Whether the hands touch each other or not is usually of no importance. Any table will do, just large enough to conveniently accommodate the sitters. The removal of a hand from the table for
few seconds does no harm, but when one of the sitters breaks the circle by leaving the table it sometimes, but not always, very considerably delays the manifestations.
3. Before the sitting begins, place some pointed lead pencils and some sheets of clean writing-paper on the table, to write down any communications that may be obtained.
64. People who do not like each other should not sit in the samo circle, for such a want of harmony tends to prevent manifestations, except with well-developed physical mediums; it is not yet known why. Belief or unbelief has no influence on the manifestations, but an acrid feeling against them is a weakening influence.
-5. Before the manifestations begin, it is well to engage in general conversation or in singing, and it is best that neither should be of a frivolous nature. A prayerful, earnest feeling among the members of the circle is likely to attract a higher and more pleasing class of spirits.
• 6. The first symptom of the invisible power at work is often a feeling like a cool wind sweeping over the hands. The first manifestations will probably be table tiltings or raps.
-7. When motions of the table or sounds are produced freely, to avoid confusion, let one person only speak, and talk to the table as to an intelligent being. Let him tell the table that three tilts or raps mcan
Yes," one means No," and two mean “ Doubtful,” and ask whether the arrangement is understood. If three signals be given in answer, then say, “ If I speak the letters of the alphabet slowly, will you signal every time I come to the letter you want, and spcll us out a message?” Should three signals be given, set to work on the plan proposed, and from this time an intelligent system of communication is established.
68. Afterwards the question should be put, “ Are we sitting in the right order to get the best manifestations ?” Probably some members of the circle will then be told to change seats with each other, and the signals will be afterwards strengthened. Next ask, “Who is the medium?” When spirits come asserting themselves to be related or
known to anybody present, well-chosen questions should be put to test the accuracy of the statements, as spirits out of the body have all the virtues and all the failings of spirits in the body.
Possibly at the first sitting of a circle symptoms of other forms of mediumship than tilts or raps may make their appearance.'
It is a very common thing, we are assured, for striking manifestations to be obtained in this way at the first sitting of a family "circle,' even when no fully-developed "medium' is present among those who have never obtained manifestations before ; but for one successful new 'circle' thus started without a 'medium,' there are six or seven failures. When once manifestations have been obtained, however, they will gradually increase in power and reliability at successive sittings; and some one of the circle' will probably come to be selected by the spirits as the favoured 'medium' of their higher communications. The gifts possessed by these "mediums’ are various in their kind. Some, if they only sit and listen for spirit voices, will scarcely ever fail to hear them; and lively conversations then ensue between themselves and their visitors, who are not always, however, such as a well-regulated household would welcome as its guests, being sometimes found out to be evil spirits' full of deceit and all manner of wickedness. Others are made aware of the presence of the spirits of their departed friends by the gentle contact of spiritual hands and the fond kisses of spiritual lips ; though the rougher handlings of unfriendly spirits sometimes take the place of these pleasant caresses. Then there are writing mediums,' who, at the dictation of their spiritual instructors, "give warnings of a personal and relative character, and inculcate purity of life and prayerfulness of inclination; the person acted on simply consenting to let the hand be used, but being totally unconscious of what is to be produced.' Sometimes, instead of holding the pencil between their own fingers, the medium' makes use of a little platform running upon castors, which is called a planchette ; the pencil is fixed to the under-side of this platform, and moves over a piece of paper placed beneath, the hands of the medium' being simply laid upon its upper surface, and (as is asserted) communicating to it no motion whatever. Another mode of using the 'planchette ' is to attach to its farther side an index, which spells out words by pointing downwards to their component letters in succession, upon an alphabet-card placed under its extremity; this method, however, which was the one first devised, is now generally discarded in favour of the more simple and direct planchette-writing. Others, again, are
, drawing mediums ;' sometimes delineating the portraits of departed rela
tives or friends, even though they have never been known to the medium in life; sometimes manifesting their power in the production of strange many-coloured designs, having no prototypes in anything we know either in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth ;' bụt having a spiritual significance which may either be revealed through the individual by whom they are executed, or made known through some other interpreter. Then, again, there are the medical mediums,' who may be presumed to be animated by the spirit of departed doctors, possessing a deeper diagnostic insight and greater therapeutic powers than they enjoyed on earth; for they either cure the sick by the hand of the medium being floated to the patient by a power felt but not seen, and placed on the diseased part of the body, the medium till then not knowing where the diseased part is,' or they dictate prescriptions for material medicines to be made up by the family druggist, and used as directed.'
In all these forms of communication the medium,' if not altogether wide-awake, is, at any rate, not asleep; and though the spirits do not always attend when summoned, the receptive powers of the medium' do not seem to be ever wanting. In the case of the "trance-mediums, however, it is different. They pass into a state which, as regards the outer world, is one of complete unconsciousness; and in this condition they manifest far more extraordinary powers, of which the pouring forth of some of the purest and most magnificent poetry the world has ever seen’ is one of the least. The spiritual revelations made by these trancemediums are to serve as the foundation of the religion of the future.' A new set of Ten Commandments has already been issued by Mrs. Emma Hardinge; and the two great Christian precepts on which hang all the Law and the Prophets,' will, doubtless, be soon superseded by the higher teaching of some yet more enlightened Spiritualist.
But as there are obstinate sceptics, who are prejudiced enough to affirm that all these extraordinary communications represent nothing more than the ordinary workings of the minds and bodies of their supposed recipients, under conditions well understood by physiologists and psychologists, the spirits occasionally vouchsafe to manifest their presence by their direct action on material bodies, inanimate as well as animate. Chairs and tables are lifted into the air, or drawn along the floor, without the contact of human hands; exquisite melodies are given forth by pianos, accordions, and guitars, without the instrumentality of any but invisible performers; and—wonder of wonders !-living men and women are caught up' from the ground and borne aloft in the air: sometimes floating between the heads of
the circle' and the ceiling of the apartment in which they were sitting together; sometimes being carried through open windows into another chamber of the same house; but sometimes being transported from one house to another at miles' distance, and entering chambers of which the doors and windows are firmly closed; so that the only mode of accounting for their ingress is to suppose that the ceiling has dissolved itself into its constituent atoms, to allow the fleshly-not the spiritual—visitor to enter, and has then closed together again into its pristine continuity. This, be it observed, is the explanation offered, in sober seriousness, by spiritualists themselves. All these wonders we are gravely called on to believe on the testimony of multitudes who know them to be true;' and we are assured that their purpose is to convince an unbelieving world that the dead still live, and hold direct communication with those whom they have left behind them on earth.'
Now, with regard to a large part of the phenomena which fall under the first and second of the above categories, we are ready to admit, in limine, that they may occur independently of any intentional or consciously-exerted agency on the part of the individuals who manifest them, and that they are, to that extent, genuine. We are intimately acquainted with ‘writing' and drawing mediums, whose honesty we regard as beyond all question, and who assure us most positively that the products of their pencils are not knowingly or designedly executed by them; their hands being guided, not by any will of their own, but by some power altogether independent of it. And we have 'assisted' at spiritual séances, at which answers have been given, by the tilting of tables, to questions addressed to the supposed spiritual visitants; and have had reason for accepting, with the fullest confidence, the assurance of our coadjutors that they had no more consciousness of having been in any way parties to the movements than we had ourselves. Of course, there are pretenders to the possession of these as of other occult'
powers, who, either for gain or for amusement, practise on the credulity of the public. We put such out of the question for the time, and address ourselves to the consideration of the phenomena which have presented themselves within our own experience, under conditions which satisfy us that, although the performers are wrong in assigning them to 'spiritual agency,' they are quite justified in affirming their own unconsciousness of any active participation in their production.
Our position, then, is that the so-called spiritual communications come from within, not from without, the individuals who suppose themselves to be the recipients of them; that they
belong to the class termed subjective' by physiologists and psychologists; and that the movements by which they are expressed, whether the tilting of tables or the writing of planchettes, are really produced by their own muscular action, exerted independently of their own wills and quite unconsciously to themselves. And of the truth of this position we hope to be able to satisfy every unprejudiced reader, though we entirely despair of convincing such as have already surrendered their common sense to the delusions of a credulous imagination.
The doctrine of unconscious muscular action' is not, as the spiritualists allege, a 'hypothesis' invented for the occasion, but is one of the best established principles of physiology, having its basis in daily and hourly experience, the only question being as to the extent of its applicability. What is the beating of the heart' but unconscious muscular action? our consciousness being only affected by the movement when it makes itself felt by undue violence. What is the drawing of the breath' but involuntary muscular action, of which we only become conscious when we direct our attention to it? That which is true of these instinctive or primarily-automatic movements is no less true-as was shown a hundred years since by Hartley-of many others, which, learned in the first instance by voluntary effort, become 6 secondarily-automatic' by habitual repetition. Has it never occurred to one of these objectors to be carried along by the
unconscious muscular action of his legs, whilst either engaged in an interesting conversation with a friend or deeply engrossed in a train of thoughts of his own, so that he finds himself at his destination before he knew that he had done more than set out towards it? Could not almost any of our fair readers remember to have played a piece of music, under circumstances so distracting to her thoughts and feelings that she has come to the end without the least idea of how she ever got through it'? And has not the like experience occurred to many a member of the stronger sex, who has been called on, under similar circumstances, to read aloud, or to go through a public recitation? The celebrated prestidigitateur Robert Houdin, whose entertaining autobiography affords many valuable lessons in psychology to those who know how to profit by them, tells us that in early life he trained himself to read a book with attention whilst keeping four balls in the air; and that he so far retained this power, after an almost entire disuse of it for thirty years, as to be able still to read with ease whilst keeping up three balls. He had also trained himself to solve mechanical problems whilst exhibiting conjuring feats that would seem to require the most intense and unremitting attention. We have been assured by an