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to which his mind is given up, and the anticipation of a given result being the stimulus which directly and involuntarily prompts the muscular movements that produce it.” »
This doctrine was at once accepted by many of our highest physiological authorities ; so that when Professor Faraday was called upon to explain the mystery of Table-turning (which had not then been attributed either to diabolical' or to spiritual' agency, but was popularly supposed to be due to electricity), he was able not merely to prove by the ingenious indicator' he devised, that the movement is really and solely due to the muscular action of the operators, but to refer for a scientific rationale of that action to a physiological principle distinctly formularised more than a year previously, and less precisely enunciated nine years before.* The lesson afforded by the truly scientific method followed by this great master of experimental philosophy, in the investigation of a class of phenomena, presenting what was, to him, an altogether novel character, should not have been lost upon those who profess to be his disciples. But, as we shall presently see, it has been entirely disregarded, not merely by such 'spiritualists' as plume themselves upon not being fettered by scientific education, but by men from whom better things might have been expected. The first point tested by Faraday was whether the interposition of his 'indicators' between the hands of the operators and the table in any way interfered with the movements of the latter; and he found that no such interference was observable, by tying the boards together and taking off the index, the table then going round as before. When, however, the upper board was free to move, and each performer fixed his (or her) eyes upon the index, so as to be made cognizant by its movement of the slightest lateral pressure of the hands, any communication of motion to the table was usually kept in check; but if the table did go round under this condition, its motion was always preceded by a very decided movement of the index in the opposite direction. And the same indication was given when the index was hidden from the operator, but was watched by another person ; any movement shown by the table under that condition being always preceded by a considerable motion of the index in the opposite direction. And thus it may be considered as demonstrated that as the table never went round unless the 'indicator' showed that lateral muscular pressure had been exerted in the direction of its movement, and as it always did go round when the “indicator 'showed that such lateral pressure was adequately exerted, its motion was solely due to the muscular action of the performers. Any persons who dispute this conclusion are obviously bound to prove the contrary, by showing that the table will go round without any deflection of the index by lateral pressure.
* See Professor Faraday's Letter to the Athenæum' of July 2, 1853. As we shall have much to say of this indicator, and as Professor Faraday's account of it is not now generally accessible, we shall here reproduce it for the benefit of those whom it essentially concerns. Nothing could be simpler than its construction, though, like everything he devised, it was perfect in its working. A couple of boards of the size of a quarto sheet of paper, a couple of small rulers or cedarpencils, a couple of indiarubber bands, a couple of pins, and a strip of light wood or cardboard eight or ten inches long, constituted its materials. The rulers being laid on one of the boards, each at a little distance from one of its sides and parallel to it, the other board was laid upon the rulers, so that it would roll on them from side to side; and its movements were restrained, without being prevented, by stretching the indiarubber bands over both boards, so as to pass above and beneath the rulers. One of the pins was fixed upright into the lower board close to the middle of its farther edge, the corresponding part of the upper being cut away at that part, so that the pin should not bear against it; the second pin was fixed into the upper board, about an inch back from the first; and the strip of wood or cardboard was so fixed on these pins as to constitute a lever of which the pin on the lower board was the fulcrum, while motion was imparted to the short arm of it by the pin on the upper board. Any lateral motion given to the upper board by the hands laid pon it wonld thus cause the index-point of the long arm of the lever to move through a long arc in the opposite direction; the amount of that motion being dependent on the ratio between the long and the short arms of the lever.
But it was asserted by the two clerical seers of Bath, who made the notable discovery in 1853 that the turning of tables was effected by Satanic agency,--and the assertion is re-echoed by the Spiritualists' of the present day, who consider Satan as their great opponent, —* that Professor Faraday's experiment has not the slightest bearing upon their performances; inasmuch as • those who tried it in his (Professor Faraday's) presence imparted the motion, which we did not.' But Professor Faraday's Tableturners were originally as thoroughly convinced as the Revs. Gillson and Godfrey, and their follower Mr. Dibdin, that the table could not have derived its motion from themselves: they repudiated the idea, when suggested to them, as utterly opposed to their own consciousness; and yet the infallible 'indicator showed them that they were mistaken. We wonder how such objectors could be convinced. The only evidence of which they will admit the cogency being that of their own senses, they are of course bound to believe in the motion of the sun round the earth ; in the power of a conjuror to pour any quantity of any number of liquors out of an inexhaustible quart bottle; and in the possession of their legs by some friendly spirit, when they
* We have been gravely assured by a lady-spiritualist of great general intelligence and considerable poetic gifts, that the medical and scientific opponents of Spiritualism are emissaries of the Devil, who foresees that his dominion on earth is seriously imperilled by the extension of the new faith!
find themselves to have walked on to their destination without any consciousness of exertion.
That the tilting' of a table in response to questions put to it —which is described by the Spiritualists as the listing of its leg,' as if the table itself stood still—is due to the downward pressure of the hands laid upon it, may then be assumed as selfevident until the contrary shall have been proved. And those who affirm that it is produced, not by muscular, but by 'spiritual' or 'psychic' agency, are bound to demonstrate the fact, by showing that no downward pressure is exerted. Nothing would be easier than to construct an apparatus for detecting vertical pressure by the movement of an index, in the same general plan as Faraday's 'indicator' for lateral pressure; and yet no one, so far as we are aware, has even attempted thus to show that the verdict of common sense is otherwise than true. We have, indeed, been gravely assured by a lady of unimpeachable veracity, that a table in her own house, with no person being near it, on being asked her age, ' lifted up its leg and struck fortytwo,' the correct number of years; a result which so appalled her, that she sold the table forth with. But on our hinting a doubt as to whether she had quite correctly remembered the circumstances of the case, which had happened some years previously, she promised to consult some notes she had made at the time; and a few days afterwards she honestly told us that there was one trifling mistake in her previous account; for that she and her friends, instead of being, as she had thought, on the other side of the room, had their hands on the table. The fact that the table had rapped out her age, and that she had parted with a piece of furniture which could not be trusted to keep so important a secret, remained on record.
That the answers obtained through the medium of tables, planchettes, &c., reflect the mental state, either of the questioner, or of some member of the circle,' may, we are certain, be assumed as a general fact. We have ourselves witnessed some amusing instances of it. Several years ago we were invited, with two medical friends, to a very select séance, to witness the performance of a lady, the Hon. Miss N—, who was described to us as a peculiarly gifted medium; not merely being the vehicle of spiritual revelations of the most elevating character, but being able to convince incredulous philosophers like ourselves of the reality of her (spiritual' gifts, by physical' manifestations of the most unmistakeable kind. Unfortunately, however, the Hon. Miss N— was not in great force on the occasion of our visit; and nothing would go right. It was suggested that she might be exhausted by a most successful performance which
had taken place on the previous evening; and that the spirits should be asked whether she stood in need of refreshment. The question was put by our host (a wine-merchant, be it observed), who repeated the alphabet rapidly until he came to N, and then went on slowly ; the table tilted at P. The same process was repeated, until the letters successively indicated were P, O,R, T. But this was not enough. The spirits might prescribe either port or porter; and the alphabet was then repeated slowly from the beginning, a prolonged pause being made at E; as the table did not tilt, a bumper of port was administered 'as directed.' It did not, however, produce the expected effect; and, with the exception of a 'manifestation’ we shall presently notice under another head (p. 329), the séance was an entire failure. Happening to meet our host a few days afterwards, however, he assured us that he had discovered the reason of its want of success in the atmosphere of incredulity' which we had brought with us; that no sooner had we taken our departure, than a series of most wonderful phenomena presented themselves, which, if they had occurred in our presence, must have convinced us.
The like experience, we may here say, has been so frequently repeated, that we have been forced to abandon as useless the attempt to test by personal examination the wonders which have been narrated to us. And thus we are justified in our continued incredulity by the judgment of Spiritualists themselves. For, as one of them honestly says, 'the phenomena seen in spiritual circles are so extraordinary, and so unlike those coming within the ordinary range of human experience, that it is quite right not to accept them on the testimony of others. Each individual should witness and test them personally, and believe nothing until the absolute knowledge is gained that denial is impossible.'
On another occasion, we happened to be on a visit at a house at which two ladies were staying, who worked the planchette on the original method, and our long previous knowledge of whom placed them beyond all suspicion of anything but self-deception. One of them was a firm believer in the reality of her intercourse with the spirit-world; and her planchette was continually at work beneath her hands, its index pointing to successive letters and figures on the card before it, just as if it had been that of a telegraph-dial acted on by galvanic communication. After having watched the operation for some time, and assured ourselves that the answers she obtained to the
she her spiritual visitants were just what her own simple and devout nature would suggest, we addressed her thus :
"“ You believe that your replies are dictated to you by your spiritual friends, and that your hands are the passive vehicles of the
spiritual agency by which the planchette is directed in spelling them out. We believe, on the other hand, that the answers are the products of your own brain, and that the planchette is moved by your own muscles. Now we can test by a very simple experiment whether your view or ours is the correct one. Will you be kind enough to shut your eyes when you ask your question, and to let us watch what the planchette spells out ? If the spirits guide it there is no reason why they should not do so as well when your eyes are shut as when they are open. If the table is moved by your own hands it will not give definite replies, except under the guidance of your own vision.' To this appeal our friend replied that she could not think of making such an experiment, as “it would show a want of faith; and all our arguments and persuasions could only bring her to the point of asking the spirits whether she might comply with our request. The reply was, 'No.' She then, at our continued urgency, asked Why not?' The reply was, “Want of faith.' Putting a still stronger pressure upon her, we induced her to ask, • Faith in what?' The reply was, 'In God.' Of course, any further appeal in that quarter would have been useless ; and we consequently addressed ourselves to our other fair friend, whose high culture and great general intelligence had prepared her for our own rationalistic explanation of marvels which had seriously perplexed her. For having been engaged a short time before in promoting a public movement, which had brought her into contact with a number of persons who had previously been strangers to her, she had asked questions respecting them which elicited replies that were in many instances such as she declared to be quite unexpected by herself,—specially tending to inculpate some of her coadjutors as influenced by unworthy motives. After a little questioning, however, she admitted to us that she had previously entertained lurking suspicions on this point, which she had scarcely even acknowledged to herself, far less made known to others; and was much relieved when we pointed out that the planchette merely revealed what was going on in the understratum of her own mind. Her conversion to our view was complete, when, on her trying the working of the planchette with her eyes shut, its pointers went astray altogether.
This test would at once dispose, we feel assured, of all the performances of the drawing mediums;' unless, indeed, they have so trained themselves to work under the guidance of their ‘muscular sense' as to be more or less independent of vision, especially in states akin to somnambulism. For, as we showed in our former article (vol. xciii, p.531), the concentration of the attention upon the muscular sense, in such conditions, often renders the subjects of them able to direct the movements by which writing