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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research by Michael Sage

XVIII Difficulties and objections--The identity of Imperator--Vision at a distance--Triviality of the messages--Spiritualist Philosophy--Life in the other world.

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Up till now I have said a great deal of evil of telepathy. I believe that I have demonstrated, not that the theory is false, but that it is an unlikely explanation of the facts. Shall we say, then, that the spiritualistic hypothesis, the only reasonable one after the dismissal of telepathy, can be accepted without difficulty and without objections? Not at all. Many objections, more or less serious, are still made to the spiritualistic hypothesis. To my mind there is only one that is serious; I will speak of it in conclusion. Many of the others are raised by persons who have a merely superficial acquaintance with the problem; their arguments are more polemical than scientific.

To begin with, some of them want to know why the controls, Imperator, Doctor, Rector, Prudens, conceal themselves under these pseudonyms. If they are, as they say, disincarnated spirits, who formerly lived in bodies, why do they not say who they were? Does not their silence on this point indicate that they are only secondary personalities of the medium?

This objection is not very serious. In the first place, the controls told Stainton Moses their names. If they do not wish these names revealed, it is without doubt for excellent reasons, which it is not difficult to imagine. There is every indication that these controls belonged to a generation considerably remote from ours; their language, the turn of their minds, and some of their assertions, all point to this. If they were well-known men, and had revealed their names, the critics would merely see a reason the more for crying fraud. They would say, "The medium has read all that, and repeats it to us in hypnosis." If, on the other hand, they were obscure persons, and had given information about their lives, the information would be unverifiable. And then the sceptics would cry on the spot, "Folly; these are the inventions of the medium's secondary personality." The controls may have still other reasons for not revealing themselves to us. This life, when once it has been left behind, may seem to the spirit to be a more or less painful nightmare. There is nothing astonishing in the fact that he does not care to recall to others the part he played in this nightmare, even if the part were a distinguished one. We ourselves know nothing but this life; we do not admit that there is any other. Therefore we all wish to shine in it like meteors, if possible. Possibly disincarnated spirits, seeing things from a higher point of view, think otherwise. In short, the controls, Imperator, Rector, Doctor and Prudens, may refrain from speaking of their former life simply because they are wise. Would it not have been wiser of Phinuit to hold his tongue than to tell us a mass of improbabilities?

Amongst those who study these phenomena there are many who see in the triviality of the greater part of the messages a strong presumption against the spiritualist hypothesis. Some of these messages are signed, it is true, by illustrious names--though that is not the case with Mrs Piper. But this regrettable fact may be variously explained. In the first place, there may be rogues, charlatans and fools on both sides, since it is probable that the soul passes from this world to the other just as it is, and that, if it progresses at all, it progresses slowly. How many individuals see in spiritualism only a means of putting forward their wretched personalities or of exploiting their contemporaries! Such persons would not shrink from representing their lucubrations as communications from the next world; they would sign them with the most august of names if to do so would further their designs. Finally, it is not even necessary to suppose that these messages are due to dishonesty; the number of mystifiers may be at least as great on the other side as on this; a sort of law of affinity which seems to rule the world of spirits may cause these lower beings to be attracted by uncultured mediums, while the great spirits are repelled by them. It would be these larvŠ of the other world who give the messages which disconcert when they do not scandalise us. But the man of science should not be rebuffed by these messages which, in spite of their contents, are important, if they result in irresistible proof of the fact that there exist outside of us and around us intelligent beings resembling ourselves.