Chapter 4 – (Theories Respecting Psychic Phenomena) – Religious and Scientific views regarding spiritualistic phenomena; some ancients myths compared
Chapter four is quite tight and straightforward; relying on the writings of Agenor de Gasparin, it focuses on the history of the scientific investigation of spiritualistic phenomena, pointing out the problems of materialistic bias, skepticism and intolerance that harkens back to religious persecutions in Europe and the United States.
Moreover, religious theological explanations regarding this phenomena is also critically examined, with an effort to demonstrate the pertinence of esoteric explanations to these spiritualistic manifestations.
In another somewhat intricate segue, the modern situation is contrasted with ancient wisdom, by noting that skepticism is a sign of the recurrent materialist and spiritual phases humanity goes through in its evolution, and so certain notions of spiritual evolution are presented via a comparative study of giants in ancient scriptures, the Bible, the Vedas, the Eddas, Greece, and Mexico.
1- The devil as cause of spiritualistic phenomena (Jules de Mirville) (p.99)
But the Marquis de Mirville carries this idea of God’s partnership with the Devil still further. According to him it is a regular commercial affair, in which the senior “silent partner” suffers the active business of the firm to be transacted as it may please his junior associate, by whose audacity and industry he profits. Who could be of any other opinion, upon reading the following?
“At the moment of this spiritual invasion of 1853, so slightingly regarded, we had dared to pronounce the word of a ‘threatening catastrophe.’ The world was nevertheless at peace, but history showing us the same symptoms at all disastrous epochs, we had a presentiment of the sad effects of a law which Goerres has formulated thus: [vol. v., p. 356.] ‘These mysterious apparitions have invariably indicated the chastening hand of God on earth.’ “*** 101
2- Material causes of spiritualistic phenomena (Jacques Babinet) (104)
The above proves only that de Gasparin makes no difference between phenomena purely magnetic, produced by the persevering will of the sitters among whom there may be not even a single medium, developed or undeveloped, and the so-called spiritual ones. While the first can be produced consciously by nearly every person, who has a firm and determined will, the latter overpowers the sensitive very often against his own consent, and always acts independently of him. The mesmerizer wills a thing, and if he is powerful enough, that thing is done. The medium, even if he had an honest purpose to succeed, may get no manifestations at all; the less he exercises his will, the better the phenomena: the more he feels anxious, the less he is likely to get anything; to mesmerize requires a positive nature, to be a medium a perfectly passive one. This is the Alphabet of Spiritualism, and no medium is ignorant of it. 109
3- Psychic causes of spiritualistic phenomena (Jean-Marc Antoine Thury) (109)
As Mr. Crookes tells us, Professor Thury refutes “all these explanations, and considers the effects due to a peculiar substance, fluid, or agent, pervading in a manner similar to the luminiferous ether of the scientists, all matter, nervous, organic or inorganic, which he terms psychode. He enters into full discussion as to the properties of this state, or form, or matter, and proposes the term ectenic force . . . for the power exerted when the mind acts at a distance through the influence of the psychode.”*
Mr. Crookes remarks further, that “Professor Thury’s ectenic force, and his own ‘psychic force’ are evidently equivalent terms.” 113
4- The nature of psychic force (113)
We certainly could very easily demonstrate that the two forces are identical, moreover, the astral or sidereal light as explained by the alchemists and Eliphas Levi, in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie; and that, under the name of AKASA, or life-principle, this all-pervading force was known to the gymnosophists, Hindu magicians, and adepts of all countries, thousands of years ago; and, that it is still known to them, and used at present by the Thibetan lamas, fakirs, thaumaturgists of all nationalities, and even by many of the Hindu “jugglers.” 113
5- Various sceptical scientific theories regarding spiritualistic phenomena (116)
After such a public exhibition of ignorance and prejudice, Mr. Butlerof, Professor of Chemistry at the St. Petersburg University, and Mr. Aksakof, Counsellor of State in the same city, who had been invited to assist on the committee for mediums, became so disgusted that they withdrew. Having published their protests in the Russian papers, they were supported by the majority of the press, who did not spare either Mendeleyeff or his officious committee with their sarcasms. The public acted fairly in that case. One hundred and thirty names, of the most influential persons of the best society of St. Petersburg, many of them no spiritualists at all, but simply investigators, added their signatures to the well-deserved protest. 118
6- Roman Catholics consider the phenomena at Lourdes to be of divine cause (119)
Once more we see the Virgin Mary resume her epistolary correspondence with the faithful children of her church; and while the “angel friends” scribble messages to spiritualists through their mediums, the “mother of God” drops letters direct from heaven to earth. The shrine of Notre Dame de Lourdes has turned into a spiritualistic cabinet for “materializations,” while the cabinets of popular American mediums are transformed into sacred shrines, into which Mohammed, Bishop Polk, Joan of Arc and other aristocratic spirits from over the “dark river,” having descended, “materialize” in full light. 119
7- Ancient myths reveal geological and anthropological truths (121)
Otherwise, whence such strange “coincidences” in the respective histories of nations and peoples so widely thrown apart? Whence that identity of primitive conceptions which, fables and legends though they are termed now, contain in them nevertheless the kernel of historical facts, of a truth thickly overgrown with the husks of popular embellishment, but still a truth? Compare only this verse of Genesis vi.: “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. . . . There were giants in the earth in those days,” etc., with this part of the Hindu cosmogony, in the Vedas, which speaks of the descent of the Brahmans. 122