The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Spiritist Frauds

Those who do not admit the reality of the manifestations generally attribute the produced effects to fraud. Their thought is that skillful conjurers do things that seem prodigious as long as we do not know their secrets. Thus, they conclude that the mediums are nothing but swindlers. We have already rebutted that argument or opinion, specifically in the articles about Mr. Home and in the issues of the Spiritist Review, January- February 1858. We will only add a few words to that, before engaging into a more serious subject.

Due to the fact that there are charlatans selling medication to the public; that there are also doctors who, although not doing it openly in public, abuse the trust given to them, will it follow that all doctors are charlatans and that the class will suffer in its reputation? Due to the fact that there are some people who sell dyes for wine making, will it follow that all wine dealers are falsifiers and that there isn’t good wine anymore? Everything is abused; even the most respectable things, and one can say that even fraud has its genie. But fraud has always an objective, some sort of material gain and interest, thus where there is nothing to gain there is no interest in deceiving. That is why we said in the previous issue of the Review, about the self-serving mediums, that the best of all guarantees is a total material disinterest.

One can say that this guarantee is not unique though, since with respect to the subject of trickery, there are very skillful amateurs who aim at amusing people, not doing it as a duty of profession. Couldn’t that also happen to the mediums? There is no doubt that it is possible to be amused for a few mo- ments, amusing others in the process, but to spend endless hours doing it, for weeks, months and years, it would be necessary to be possessed by the devil of mystification, and the first to be mystified would be the mystifier. Needless to repeat everything that has already been said about the good faith of the mediums and attendees to the meetings, as for being a toy of illusion and fascination. We have already responded to that objection many times as well as to all other objections on the subject, for what we refer the reader to our Instruction Practique sur les Manifestations (Practical Instructions about the Manifestations) and to our previous articles in the Spiritist Review.

Our objective is not to convince the incredulous. If they are not con- vinced by the facts, they would be even less by reason. It would then be a waste of time. On the contrary, we address the adepts in order to warn them against the subterfuges that could victimize them from people driv- en by any kind of interest to simulate certain phenomena. We say certain phenomena because there are some which evidently defy every skill of prestidigitation as, in particular, the motion of objects without contact; the suspension of heavy bodies in space; the knocks given in all directions; the apparitions, etc. But even to some of those phenomena it would be possible, to a certain degree, the simulation, thanks to the advancement of the art of trickery. What is necessary to do in such cases is to carefully observe the circumstances and above all to take into account the character and condition of the persons, as well as the objective and possible interest they might have in deceiving. That is the best of all controls since there are circumstances that reject any reason for suspicion.

Thus, we establish the principle that it is necessary to distrust every- one who makes a spectacle out of those phenomena, an object of curiosity or amusement, or who would take any advantage of them, however small it might be, bragging about producing them at will and for any reason. It would never be too much to repeat that the manifesting occult intel- ligences have their susceptibilities and want to prove that they also have their free will, not submitting to our caprices.

From all physical phenomena, one of the most common is the internal rapping, vibrating in the inner substance of the wood, with or without the motion of the table or any other object which may be utilized. Well, that effect is one of the easiest to imitate, and as it is also one of the most fre- quently produced, it seems useful to reveal a little trick with which we can be deceived. All it requires is that both hands are placed wide open on the table, sufficiently close so that the thumb nails firmly support each other; then through an absolutely imperceptible muscular movement, the nail is led to produce a dry cracking noise, very similar to those of the internal typtology. That noise vibrates in the wood thus producing a complete il- lusion. There is nothing easier than making as many noises as desired; the beat of a drum, and so forth; then respond with a yes or no according to the number of raps or even by the indication of the letters of the alphabet.

Once warned about it, the means of recognizing the fraud is very simple. It will no longer be possible if the hands are kept away from each other and if we ensure that no physical contact might produce the noise. As a matter of fact, the authentic noises have the characteristic of willingly changing places and tone, a fact that does not happen to those produced through the means mentioned above, or any other for that matter. The true ones leave the table and are produced on any other piece of furni- ture, touched by nobody, answering to unexpected questions. Thus, we draw the attention of those good faith persons with respect to this little gimmick, as well as others that may be discovered, to unceremoniously denounce them.

The possibility of imitation and fraud does not prevent the reality of the facts and Spiritism has only to gain with the exposure of the impos- ters. If someone says: I saw such a phenomenon but there was fraud, we will respond that it is possible; we even saw pseudo somnambulists who skillfully simulated somnambulism. However, that does not mean that somnambulism is not a fact. Everybody has already seen merchants sell- ing cotton for silk, which does not mean that there isn’t a real fabric made of silk. It is necessary to examine all circumstances and verify whether the doubt is meaningful. But for that, as for everything else, one needs to be an expert. Well, we cannot accept for the judge of a given cause someone who did not understand anything about that subject.

We say the same about the psychographic mediums. People generally think that the mechanical mediums offer more guarantees, not only due to the independence of their ideas but also against deception. But that is a mistake. Fraud permeates everywhere. We know that with proper skills it is possible to make the planchettes write and give it every appearance of spontaneous movement. The actual thought is what refutes all doubts, coming from a mechanical, intuitive, hearing, speaking or clairvoyant medium.

There are communications that go so much beyond the ideas, knowl- edge and even intellectual reach of the medium that it would be necessary to be completely mistaken to give the medium the actual credit. We ac- knowledge that charlatanism has a great capability and vast resources, but we have not yet recognized in them the gift of turning an ignorant person into a wise person or giving talent to someone who does not have it.

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