How does spiritualism differ from mesmerism? The word “mesmerism” embraces all the phenomena that ever were claimed by any intelligent spiritualists. The spiritualists claim that they get knowledge from the dead through living mediums.
Do not mesmerizers do this? Surely. Then what is the difference? In the ignorance of the people.
I will give some facts which have come under my own observation. When I first commenced mesmerizing about sixteen years ago, the most of my experiments were of the following kind. After getting my subject in a mesmerized state, I would try some simple experiment, for instance, imagine some person or animal which he would describe. I would then put him in communication with some person of the company, and let that person carry him to some place which he would describe. In these experiments it would often happen that he would get intelligence from some person of whom the company knew nothing. At other times the audience would like to have me send him after someone's lost friend. This I used to do but tried to make them understand that it was the reflection of their own thought.
In these experiments I had an opportunity to see and hear the different opinions and beliefs of mankind in regard to whether he really saw the person that he would describe or not. I found that my own opinion could have but little effect upon the mind of the audience. Their opinions would govern in most all cases. Sometimes, when the experiments would embrace the friend of an infidel, I would confuse him some; but I found that nearly all persons were inclined to believe just about as their religious opinions will. I also found that my subject’s religious opinions were just about like the person's opinions that he was in communication with.
If they professed religion to the world and were a hypocrite at heart, the subject would find it out, and the same was true of the subject. I had one subject who was very religious when awake, but when asleep was just the opposite.
I will here relate an experiment when on the Kennebec. I had my subject in the sleep. I then requested any of the company to bring me the name of any individual dead or alive, and the subject would find him. A name was accordingly handed me. I passed it to the subject. He took the paper on which the name was written and read the name aloud. At this time the subject was blindfolded so that it was impossible for him to see with his natural eyes. I then told him to find the person. I will relate his own story.
He said, “This is a man.” “Well,” said I, “find him and talk with him.” In a short time he said, “I have found him.” I asked, “What does he say?” He answered, “He was a married man, had a wife and three children, was a joiner by trade; left his tool chest in a barn, and left between two days, went to Boston, stopped a time, left for the state of New York, worked there for three years, and then died; he has been dead three years.”
I told him to bring him here and describe him. He went on to give a general description of a man, and I told him that if there was anything peculiar in his appearance that differed from all others to describe him. “Well,” said he, “there is one thing in which he differs from anyone else in the room. He has a hare lip.” This was a fact.
Now as there is no knowledge among the people of the principle by which this was done, the people were left to their own judgment. So I left them arguing, some trying to prove it was the man's spirit, some calling it humbug and collusion. Others went away and told what they saw and heard.
This kind of an experiment I was trying almost every day for over four years.
I then became a medium myself, but not like my subject. I retained my own consciousness and at the same time took the feelings of my patient. Thus I was able to unlock the secret which has been a mystery for ages to mankind. I found that I had the power of not only feeling their aches and pains, but the state of their mind. I discovered that ideas took form and the patient was affected just according to the impression contained in the idea. For example, if a person lost a friend at sea, the shock upon his nervous system would disturb the fluids of their body and create around them a vapor like a cloud and in this cloud they create the essence of their trouble. This cloud being a part of their nervous system acts upon the body. Now unless the scene can be destroyed, it will destroy the body. This cloud embraces all the phenomena of spiritualism, mesmerism and all other excitements differing according to circumstances.
Every person has around them this cloud or vapor and in that are all their ideas, right or wrong. This vapor or fluid contains the identity of the person.
Now when I sit down with a diseased person, I see the spiritual form, in this cloud, like a person driven out of his home. They sometimes appear very much frightened, which is almost always the case with insane persons. I show no disposition to disturb them and at last they approach me cautiously, and if I can govern my own spirit or mind I can govern theirs. At last I commence a conversation with them. They tell me their trouble and offer to carry me spiritually to the place where their trouble commenced.
I was sitting by a lady whom I had never seen before until she called upon me with her father to see if I could help her. The lady had all the appearance of dropsy. I took her by the hand. In a short time it seemed as though we were going off some distance. At last I saw water. It seemed as though we were on the ocean. At length I saw a brig in a gale. I also saw a man on the bowsprit, dressed in an oilcloth suit. At last he fell overboard. The vessel hove to and in a short time the man sank. This was a reality, but it happened five years before. Now to cure the lady was to bring her from the scene of her troubles. This I did and the lady recovered.
I often find patients whose disease or trouble was brought on by religious excitement. I went to see a young lady during the Miller excitement. She was confined to her bed, would not converse with any person, lay in a sort of trance with her eyes rolled up in her head, took no notice of any person. The only thing she would say was that she was confined in a pit, held there by a large man whose duty it was to hold her there, and she said to me, “I shall never die, nor never get well.” She had been in this condition for one year, refused all nourishment, and was a mere skeleton at the time I went to see her. This was her story when I got her so as to converse. I sat down by the lady, and in about an hour I saw the man she had created, and described him to her, and told her that I would drive him away. This seemed to frighten her, for she was afraid for my safety. But when I assured her that I could drive the man away she kept quiet. In three hours she walked to the door, and she recovered her health.
I could name hundreds of cases showing the effect of mind upon the body. Some will say it is spiritualism. Others will say it is not. When asked to explain where the difference lies, the only answer is, that the mesmeric state is produced by some other person on the subject, while the spiritualist is thrown into this state or trance by spirits. Now the fact is known by thousands of persons that this mesmerizing oneself has been common ever since mesmerism has been known; therefore there is nothing new in that. So it is with questions put to any spiritualist.
Let us now examine the proof of its being from the dead. A person is thrown into an unconscious state. While in this state, the spirit of some person purporting to come from the dead enters the body and addresses itself to the company, telling some story which the company knows nothing of. When aroused from the trance, he is asked if he is conscious of what he had been saying or doing. To this question they nearly all say, No. The company is left in the same condition as in the mesmeric experiments. Some call it mesmerism, some spiritualism.
I will now show the similarity between this experiment and spiritualism. A person sits down and throws himself into what is called a spiritualistic state or trance. He then commences talking to someone in the audience. When asked what he has to communicate he replies, “A friend wishes to communicate with Mr. A.” Mr. A. then asks who wishes to communicate with him. The medium replies, “Your brother.” He then asks, “Will you give his name?” The answer is, “John.” “Ask him how long he has been in the spirit world and what was his business while in the body.” The answer, “I was a joiner by trade, had a wife and three children, been dead six years.” This is true. The medium knew nothing of the past before. The company is left in the same state as in the former experiment. Some believe it is a spirit of the dead, some believe it is humbug and others it is mesmerism. My experience explains these two to be mesmerism. After practicing for six years with a subject, trying all kinds of experiments, I then became a medium myself. The spiritual medium after going into a trance speaks to the patient thus.
My name is Sarah B, your sister and guardian spirit. I come to communicate some facts in regard to your health. The medium then goes on to explain the patient's feelings, describing some located disease and then prescribes the remedy. The patient asks, “Can you give me some proof that you are my sister?” A slate and pencil is called for. The medium's hand is then raised by the spirit and she writes this communication. “You were not aware I left home when I intended to go, but I took a steamer for Liverpool. Five days out the steamer sank and all were lost but fifty passengers.”
This is looked upon as certain proof that it is from the spirit world. The company is then left in the same doubt as before. The spiritualists contend it is spirits, but they can't describe the diseases of the sick; here they fall far short of what they profess. They all contend that the time will come when diseases will be cured without the aid of medicine, yet all the mediums I have ever known or heard of locate diseases the same as any physician and then go on to prescribe medicine, and this is done nine times out of ten by some Indian who purports to have been dead some hundred years ago.
I will here relate one instance to show that these communications are in accordance with their prejudices. I had a patient who thought she had a white swelling on her knee. This fact was known to certain persons at one of the sittings. The medium was very much excited and wished to communicate some fact to the company; it purported to be the name of an Indian. The amount of his communication was to tell the company that there was one lady at Belfast very sick who begs Dr. Quimby to come and heal her. Now these are the facts; there had been a lady here who I had been treating with what was called white swelling also, and this fact was known to the medium too that she, “my patient,” had left for home three weeks before and she had not the white swelling about the knee when she left.
As I have been investigating this subject I sometimes try experiments to see if any knowledge that the medium should get in regard to me would make any difference when in the trance or under the spirit guidance. As facts are what I want to get at, I take my own way to collect them.
I had had quite a number of patients sent me by an old German physician who communicated his knowledge through a certain medium and located diseases that the patient never heard of. I became rather suspicious in regard to his skill and I contrived to let the medium know it to see how it would operate on the old German doctor. And in a short time he found it out, probably by the medium and like all other persons whose opinions are ridiculed, he ceased to send me any more patients and became a sort of prophet. The medium, not giving her own name but assuming the name of another person, said that I was a medium but was too proud to admit it and the spirits would take the power from me. This was what I expected. I have tried other experiments with less success. This was exactly the case with my mesmerized patient; if a person was a skeptic or had any hard feelings against me or my patients, I could not get him to have anything to do with him. That shows that the mediums are affected like all mesmerized subjects. I will here relate an instance that happened while I was in Boston.
I went with a friend to see a medium. I think it was the medium that R. J. Shaw used to communicate through. When we arrived at the house, we were informed that there was a gentleman there to be examined who was sick. And as the gentleman I was with was acquainted with the medium, he asked if we could not sit down at the same time, and being informed we could, we took seats at the table. The medium was a young lass, about sixteen years old, a very pleasant appearing young person but not much knowledge in the medical profession. In a short time the raps commenced. The doctor gave notice of his presence by loud raps. He was then asked by the sick man, What was the matter. The lady medium wrote out the trouble, but as I had my doubts in regard to her skill, I was troubled for her. This affected her and her hand stopped writing and shaking and moved towards me. My friend asked what that meant. It was not for me to tell. I then asked the medium if I was a medium and the answer came, three loud raps. I then asked what kind of a medium; it wrote, a healing medium, and I then went on to help the young lady out of her trouble and everything I said to the old man in regard to his health was backed up by raps or writing. This experiment was just like mesmerism. I then told my friend that if there was a medium in the sitting that was a truthful medium I could prove to him I was a healing medium.
We then went to another medium that was a lady who could produce the raps and was a writing medium also. We sat down to a large table with a number of others. The questions were nearly all asked mentally. After quite a number of ladies and gentlemen had got communication from their dead friends, it came to my turn. I said that I had nothing of importance to ask so it passed to another. The communications were of that character that affected the ladies very much and I was very much surprised that the company could not see how exactly it agreed with mesmerism.
At last it came to my friend's turn; he replied the same as I did. But it was unsatisfactory to the rest, as he was a strong believer. I then touched his toe to put him in mind of what I was to prove to him without letting anyone of the company know that I could see the spirits. He then asked if there was any medium present. The answer came by raps, “Yes.” “What kind of a medium?” The alphabet was then called for and spelled out “seeing medium.” This seemed to astonish the whole company. He then asked if he was the medium. The answer was “no,” until it came to me. When asked if I was the medium, loud raps signified, “yes.” I then asked if I see you, the raps came “yes.” I then said, “If I will describe your person and dress, will you say to the company whether I am right.” The raps came “yes” to every remark I made in regard to her person or self. The answer to all was “yes.” I then said to my friend, “What do you think of that?” He replied, “I don't believe you see the spirits.” “Do you hear him?” said I, and loud raps followed. “Do you hear that, my friend?” “Yes, but I don't believe it.” The raps came very loud to prove I really saw the spirit. I then asked my friend to explain it. He said it was mesmerism. “Well,” said I, “so is all the rest.” He would not agree to that. He said, “All the other experiments were spiritualism except mine.”