Read PART X - EXPERIENCES IN THE CIRCLE of Genuine Mediumship / The Invisible Powers, free online book, by Bhakta Vishita, on ReadCentral.com.

When a circle of sensitive people has been formed, and the necessary preliminaries of the first sitting have been completed, it is not at all infrequent that even at the first sitting there should be more or less manifestation of spirit power. In many cases the sensitives among the sitters begin to experience a peculiar sensation in their arms and hands, the latter being placed on the table in front of them.

Signs of Spirit Presence.

There will be manifested in most cases a peculiar sense of heaviness or weight in the hands on the table, and an impression that the hands are being held to the table as if by glue or other adhesive material. In the arms are manifested peculiar tingling, pricking sensations, or a “needles and pins” feeling, something akin to a gentle current of electricity passing along them. Sometimes there is experienced the sensation of a gentle cool breeze passing over the sitters particularly over the backs of their hands. In other cases there may be a sense of numbness or partial loss of sensation, something akin to that experienced when a hand or arm “goes to sleep,” as the popular phrase expresses it. In other cases there is manifested a peculiar jerking, twitching, or vibration of the hands and arms, sometimes extending to the whole body of some of the sitters. Sometimes the hand of the medium will begin to make motions as if he were trying to write, and a pencil placed in his hands may trace crude figures or attempts at letters. At this stage it will be found that the singing of hymns or similar music will tend to have a quieting, soothing, harmonizing effect.

Spirit Rappings.

At the first sitting, or one shortly following after the first, it is likely that raps will be produced, and communication established in this way. In such case the leader of the circle (not the medium) should be sure to inform the spirits just what communicating code is to be used in the circle, so that there may be no misunderstanding concerning the same. In such case he should address the spirits as if there were several present, for such will most likely be the case. It must be remembered, however, that the raps will not always come from the table. They may also, for that matter, come from the wall, the ceiling, or from some of the furniture in the room. The table raps come from the top of the table or under the table. Sometimes they sound like ordinary raps, and then again they may give forth a peculiar hollow sound which is difficult to describe or to definitely locate. The appearance of these raps give positive proof that the conditions are being established more or less fully, and the success of the circle is almost sure to follow.

Table Tippings.

Sometimes, however, in place of the raps being manifested by the spirit forces, there will instead be manifested that peculiar tipping of the table which was the distinguishing characteristic of early spiritualistic phenomena in the western countries. In this case the tipping of the table will proceed just as in the case of the raps, so far as the transmission of messages is concerned. That is to say, the table will tilt three times, one time, etc., in accordance with the code, just as in the case of communication by means of the raps. In addition to this, however, the table may begin to manifest strange motions; it may begin to raise itself, jump around, spin around on one leg, slide across the rooms, etc. In such cases the hands of the sitters should be kept on the table, or if they slip off they should be at once replaced thereupon. Sometimes heavy tables will manifest more activity than the lighter ones.

The Spirit Signals.

When these rappings or table-tiltings begin to be manifested, all in the circle should keep cool and calm, and should refuse to become agitated or excited. If the phenomena should be apparently meaningless and disconnected, and resulting in no definite communication from the other side, do not jump to the conclusion that the meaningless rapping or senseless table tipping is the work of foolish spirits or flippant decarnate entities. On the contrary, you must remember that not only is your circle experimenting, but that the spirits on the other side are also experimenting in hopes of securing proper conditions for intelligent communications and definite messages. As we have said before, the spirits have their own troubles, as well as the sitters, and both sides are really engaged in an effort to “find each other.” As a writer has said: “Remember also that you are merely experimenting, and that the spirit people are also, perhaps for the first time, trying to penetrate the veil and utilize powers and agencies of which, in all probability, they know as little as do you. So many disturbing factors exist weather, varying psychical conditions of the sitters, agitated mental states, too great expectancy, or anxiety for successful demonstrations that the true disposition to be maintained by the inquirer is that of the scientific student, who carefully watches what transpires, and endeavors to discover the causes of failure as well as the conditions which favor success.”

Flashes of Communication.

In some cases the circle will have to sit several times before the persistent though disconnected and apparently meaningless raps or table-tilts will begin to show positive signs of intelligent signalling. The same thing would probably occur were the inhabitants of the planet Mars to find themselves able to flash signals to our earth for a long time the flashes would seem meaningless to us, until at last they would seem to manifest a definite intelligent purpose and rhythm. When this stage of the raps or table-tilts has been reached, then the leader of the circle should acquaint the spirits with the code used, and ask definite questions concerning the future conduct of the séance, the answers to which the spirits are requested to give through the signal code of raps or tilts. When these answers begin to “come through” plainly and definitely, then the séance enters a new phase.

Spirit Code Signals.

In this new phase, when once entered into, the formal set procedure to be followed will be about as follows: The leader of the circle, recognizing the signs of the presence of spirits in the circle, will address them and ask them whether or not there is a spirit present who wishes to convey a message to the circle, or to any one present. Then the spirits signal back in the affirmative or the negative. If the answer be in the affirmative, the circle leader asks the spirits to indicate by the affirmative signal when the name of the right person present is named and he then proceeds to slowly and plainly name each person present, in succession, until the affirmative signal is received. Or, he may ask the spirits to indicate the identity of the spirit friends present, when their names are called; and he then proceeds to call over the names of the departed friends of those present, as the same are requested by the sitters or visitors to the circle. When the right name is reached, the spirits signal in the affirmative, either by raps of table-tilts, etc. After the question-and-answer line of communication has been firmly and strongly established, more definite information may be obtained by the instruction of the system of “alphabet calling,” as described in a preceding portion of this book. In this system, the letters of the alphabet are slowly and clearly called off, in succession, until the affirmative signal is given regarding the letter just called, which indicates that that letter is to be marked down as a part of the sentence. Wonderful messages have been received in this way, although the process is very slow and somewhat tedious in the case of long messages.

Ouija Boards.

Of late years the sitters at circles have found a quicker method of obtaining “letter by letter” messages by means of the apparatus called “the Ouija Board,” which consists of a moving “Planchette” with an indicator which moves over the letters marked on a board, the hands of the sitters (or certain of their number) being placed on the table of the “Planchette.” The indicator moves over the line of letters, and indicates the letters of the message, one by one. The Ouija Boards are sold at a moderate price, and will be found a valuable adjunct to any spiritualistic circle. During the past few years, public attention has been strongly directed to this manner of obtaining spirit communications by reason of newspaper notices concerning the same, and the fact that several books have been written under spirit guidance imparted in this particular way.

A Home-Made Ouija Board.

A writer has given the following directions for making a “home-made Ouija Board,” viz., “A Planchette may be used as an ‘Ouija’ by laying down a sheet of paper upon which the letters of the alphabet have been written or printed in a fairly large semi-circle, the words ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ being written at either end, and figures from 1 to 9 written straight across a little lower down. Now remove the pencil and insert a small moderately sharpened stick as a pointer, and the Planchette may run about, point to letters or numbers, answers your questions at ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ or messages may be spelt out as you watch its movements.”

Trance or Inspirational Mediumship.

Through the development and unfoldment afforded by the development circle, the mediumistic persons in that circle, particularly the medium who is “sitting for development” in the circle, will in all probability develop that phase of mediumship caller “Trance Mediumship,” or “Inspirational Mediumship.” Of this phase of mediumship a writer has said: “This mental phase of mediumship involves the development of a degree of impressibility which may range from the conscious reception of suggestion, or impulses, or thoughts from other intelligences, to the lucidity on the spiritual plane which is displayed by conscious clear-seeing, or spirit-sight. The phenomena of super-sensuous reception due to spirit influence are elicited in much the same way as a mesmerist arouses the clairvoyant powers of his subject. The somnambulic sleep, or trance, is induced in the subject whose voluntary powers are no longer under his control, and the involuntary processes are well-nigh suspended. In this state his spirit sometimes gains a larger degree of freedom, and is able to perceive on the inner or spiritual plane.

Symptoms of Trance Condition.

“If you are likely to become a trance-speaking medium, you will probably experience a sensation as a falling or dizziness, as if you were going to faint; this may continue until you become entirely unconscious on the external plane, and you will know no more until you regain your normal condition, although, while under the influence of the operator, you may have been speaking more or less coherently. He may not, at first, be able to convey the exact impression he wishes to produce. His ‘suggestion’ is not strong enough to set your involuntary nerves vibrating in just the way he desires; consequently his thought is not transferred to you in a manner which insures faithful reproduction, and you should not be disappointed because of such imperfect results at the outset. If your mind is filled with the desire to succeed, you will become too self-conscious, and will thus destroy the very condition upon which success depends.”

The Entranced State.

Another mediumistic writer says: “The entrancement usually takes place all at once, and the entranced one passes into the realm of communication with the spirits without much warning of any kind. When the medium is entranced it is highly essential that there be no commotion or fear expressed in thought or action in the circle. It must be remembered that the welfare of the medium depends a great deal on the conditions of the others present, and purity of thought and pleasant expectation should be the first thing looked after when the entrancement occurs. In passing into the trance, the medium usually grows very pale and acts not unlike a person going into a faint. But he or she must be allowed to pass behind the veil without any commotion. When the entrancement is accomplished, the manifestations may take place in different ways. There are, in fact, many forms of manifestation belonging to this particular phase of mediumship, but they all come under the general rule and conditions.”

Trance Phenomena.

Another writer has said: “In entering the trance condition of mediumship, you will probably become semi-conscious, or perhaps almost completely unconscious. The influence will stimulate your breathing, which will become rapid and irregular; your eyes will close and you will be unable to open them, and your hands and body may twitch and jerk as if you were being subjected to a series of galvanic shocks. The sitters should keep calm and sympathetic, but they should check any tendency on the part of the medium to undue noise, or violence, or absurdity. You will be aware of what you are doing, but will be unable to fully exercise the will to interfere or try to stop. You will most likely become conscious of an impulse to do something, or to blurt out certain words. If you resist, you will only make the task more difficult and hinder the attainment of the end you have in view. Your best course is to hold your judgment in suspense; so do not be hostile or critical, but act out your impressions.

Entering the Trance.

“Let the influence have its course say what you feel you must say, and never mind about your own state of consciousness. You will be much more likely to pass into the unconsciousness of the trance (if you desire to do so) if you say, ’Now, spirit friend, I trust myself to you, and will yield my body and brain to your control, for you to do the best you can with and through me. I am willing to co-operate with you for the time being, and trust you to do your utmost for the good of others.’ It is not necessary that you should be utterly unconscious, although you may think it is, to prove that another intelligence is operating upon and through you. The evidence of that fact will be displayed in the nature of the message and the unusual ability displayed by you when under the stimulating influence of the operator.

Advice to Trance Mediums.

“Most mediums find that their powers vary. Sometimes there seems to be a high degree of lucidity. The impressions which they receive are clear and strong; and the ideas seem to flow through them freely, and the quality of the inspirations is exhilarating, and they feel strengthened and uplifted. But there are other days when they feel very much alone. The influence that affects them is weak; they get only hazy impressions, and there is a woeful lack of ideas. It seems as if the heavens were brass, or that they themselves were unresponsive. They know not why, but whatever they can ‘lay hold of’ to speak, or whatever the spirit people can project into their sphere seems forced and incomplete. If you should ever have these experiences, turn your attention to something else. Do not ‘harp on one string’ too much. Physical exercise, change of scene, social company, and rest, will soon restore your tone and renew your powers.”

Speaking Mediumship.

In that form of Trance or Inspirational Mediumship generally known as “Speaking Mediumship,” the communicating spirit assumes partial or complete control of the vocal organs of the medium, and the spirit then directly addresses the circle or audience of listeners, just as he would do were he, himself, actually in the flesh confronting them and using his own vocal organs. In such addressing the spirit manifests many of the characteristics which distinguished him during his earth life. The medium’s voice is changed, and his manner takes on a quite different form, i.e., that of the spirit which he possessed in his own earth life. In fact, in some cases, it has actually been observed that the very body of the medium seemed to either shrink, or else enlarge, as if taking the form of the etheric framework of the controlling spirit.

Public Speaking Under Control.

A writer gives the following advice concerning Speaking Mediumship: “Should you be controlled to give public addresses, it will be best to withhold the name of the spirit who prompts or controls your utterances. Most intelligent spirits prefer to be known by their teachings, rather than by the names they bore when on earth. If the addresses are eloquent and beautiful, and the thoughts presented are good and true, they will be acceptable on their own merits, and would not be one bit more valuable because they were inspired by some well-known historical persons. Whereas, if you announce the name of a spirit, your hearers may consider that the address does not come up to the standard of the ability displayed by that individual before he dies, and may discredit and discard the good that they might otherwise have found in your utterances.”

Spirit Advice and Counsel.

If spirits voluntarily tender you their advice upon business matters, especially if they are friends or relatives whom you know and trust, and who, when here, were capable and experienced business people, you may well give heed to their counsel, even though you may not feel it wise to follow it; but do not make a practice of going to the spirits for information concerning trade or finance. Why should you expect that wise and enlightened spirits should concern themselves about stocks and shares, commerce, or manufacturing? Probably they knew but little about these things when they were here, and have no heed for such knowledge over there; and it will be well for you to learn to live your own life, do your business, and accept the ordinary duties and responsibilities which naturally devolve upon you. Let mediumship be a part of your education and development, not the whole.

Impersonating Manifestations.

It will often happen that some spirit will take control of the medium for the purpose of communicating with a friend present in the circle or audience, and for the purpose of positively identifying himself to that friend, he may deem it necessary to cause you to impersonate himself as he was during his earth life. In such cases you will experience a peculiar feeling of undergoing a complete transformation of personality, and often a dual-personality for the time being. Another instance of this kind is where a spirit wishing to communicate with friends, and this being his first opportunity to manifest in the impersonating phase, he may yield to that peculiar psychic law which seems to operate in the direction of causing a spirit, manifesting for the first time, to enact his dying experiences, and to manifest a pantomimic reproduction of his last hours preceding death. In such cases, the medium reproduces, in a most startlingly real manner, the movements, ways of breathing, coughing, gestures, ejaculations, and may even go so far as to utter the “last words” of the dying man whose spirit now controls the medium. Every medium should be prepared for an experience of this kind, for it will sometimes completely upset a medium unfamiliar with it, and not knowing just what it all means.

Incidents of Impersonations.

In a case such as stated above, the medium will probably find himself either partially or completely conscious of what is being said and done by the spirit through his body or vocal organs. He will naturally strive to escape the utterance of the strange cries, moans, vocal gasps and efforts, and the dead cries and farewell words of the dying man or woman. Some mediums have felt at such times as if they were losing their reason, and they have struggled to throw off the spirit control and influence in order to regain their mental balance. The best mediums advise the young mediums to keep as cool, calm, and collected as possible in such cases, and not to allow themselves to become panic-stricken. A writer on the subject has said: “Trust to the sincerity of the spirit and the good sense of the sitters, and throw off your fear. Yield obedience to your control, and neither help nor hinder it. Just do and say what you feel you have to do or say, and leave the results. You cannot, or should not, be held responsible for failure by the sitters, if there is no recognition; and by responding and giving free course to the suggestion, which reaches you as an impulse or mental impression, greater success will follow, and the development you seek will be promoted. If, however, you find that the impersonations are untrue, and the sitters are unable to interpret or recognize what you do or say after you have followed out your impressions a number of times, then resist them with all your strength of will, and require from the spirit the proof of his identity in some other way.”

Incidents of Inspirational Mediumship.

Another writer speaking concerning inspirational mediumship, has said: “In inspirational speaking it will be noted that the medium often gives a really wonderful speech, although he may naturally be a very poor conversationalist. These speeches are often preserved and some of them form exceptionally interesting literature. These speeches are generally given when the medium is seated, but sometimes he loses balance and falls to the floor. Still, as long as the spirit control has anything to say, he will say it through the vocal organs of the medium. But it must always be borne in mind that a medium does not, as a general rule, become an inspirational speaker all at once. There is a stage of development through which he must pass in which the spirit control assumes charge of the body of the medium, and this takes some time and is usually accomplished in steps. First, the medium gives evidence of inspirational speaking by uttering guttural sounds, and very often his mouth merely moves without giving forth any sound whatever. Little by little the control gains access to the inner atmosphere of the medium, and when he has broken the final barriers, he can speak and act and deliver what he has to say. But it must be remembered that the mind of the medium is not to be left out of the question entirely. He is often called upon to aid in the interpretation of the speeches the spirit delivers, and these he may misinterpret and lend to them color of his own mentality, without his conscious intention to do so, however.”

Value of Identification.

In impersonation mediumship, however, no matter how interesting the manifestation may be, it is of prime importance that the identity of the spirit should be clearly established, providing that the spirit himself claims positively to be some particular individual; this, of course, does not apply to instances in which the spirit does not claim identity with any particular departed person, and where the communications are given anonymously. It is this feature of identification that renders this phase of mediumship so valuable and important. A well-known medium, in a trance state, once delivered the following message from a spirit: “Impersonation mediumship is the most valuable that the world can possibly have today. When by the aid of the impersonating medium, the inquirer is enabled to converse with his beloved deceased friends, and they make themselves actually visible in the personality of the medium, plain to consciousness and understanding, and tell him specifically points and facts of identity and experience that are utterly beyond the power of any other intelligence to tell, then he has something borne in upon him through the senses of sight, of hearing and understanding that appeals to him. Therefore, the impersonating medium is the most valuable medium you can present to inquirers.” Another mediumistic writer has said: “This kind of mediumship carries conviction of the real presence of the so-called dead, and your aim should be to get into communication with the intelligent operator at the other end of the line, and elicit from him evidences of his identity and purpose. Table movements, raps, materializations, writings, messages, or controls, are of comparatively little value unless by their agency you can secure proofs of the personal identity and survival after death of your departed friends, or some indications of a rational purpose on the part of the operator.”

Fraudulent Claims of Identity.

We would be lacking in our sense of duty and obligation toward our readers, however, were we to refrain from calling their attention to the fact that positive and strict identification of the spirits, in cases where identity is claimed, is a duty on the part of investigators, particularly on the part of those who happen to be relatives or friends of the deceased person whose presence and identity are being claimed by the controlling spirit who is manifesting the impersonation. As we have said, elsewhere, we must remember that there are all kinds of decarnate spirits, just as there are all kinds of incarnate spirits; and that the nature of a spirit is not greatly changed by passing out of the body. Just as there are imposters on the earth plane, so are there imposters on the spirit plane. And, accordingly, caution is to be exercised on both planes. The following quotations from mediumistic writers will serve to illustrate this point, and to show that the best mediumistic authorities themselves insist upon this precaution being taken.

Guarding Against Fraudulent Spirits.

One writer says: “While most mediums seek for some guide or control of prominence, it must not be always taken for granted that the controlling spirit during a séance is always just what he claims to be. For instance, a spirit control might give his name as Henry Clay, and he might deliver a spirited talk or oration, which, however, would be reeking with grammatical errors. Even though he insist that he is Henry Clay, our reason will tell us that he is not what he pretends to be. The change which we call death cannot lead all spirits to reform, and there are many who, as in earth life, are unworthy of our association, and should be gotten rid of as soon as they appear. When these fraudulent spirits appear, the atmosphere of the circle should be made very sacred and high in character. Evil spirits, and those of low characters, cannot endure the presence of elevated and high thoughts, and by the holding of thoughts of this character the circle can soon rid itself for good of these troublesome entities and it should do so without fail.”

Spirit Jokers.

Another writer says, on this point: “That there are spirits who sometimes impersonate, and seek to pass themselves off as friends of the sitters, cannot be denied; in fact, we have had personal proof of the same on several occasions. But these troublesome and vexatious visitors invariably get ‘bowled out’ if the investigators are observant and careful. In fact, such entities are neither as numerous, or as evilly disposed, as many persons imagine them to be. There are spirits who ‘play up to’ the weaknesses and flatter the vanity of those to whom they communicate. And it is equally true that there are spirits who give glowing assurances of the good things that they will perform by-and-by, and profess to be some of the ‘great ones’ of the past, is equally true. It is a well-known saying that ‘people love a lord,’ and this amiable weakness is fully realized by the jokers on the other side but the fault does not wholly rest with them! Their too confiding and credulous mediums are too often in the main responsible for their own mystification and misleading. They are often so anxious to be guided by some ‘eminent’ person who will be to them an ‘authority,’ that they practically invite spirit pretenders to fool them to the top of their bent. This does not apply to all cases of real or supposed deception, but it does cover a large proportion of such experiences. In many instances there is an element of self-deception or auto-suggestion and the ‘wish becomes father to the thought,’ and the sensitive medium’s unrestrained imaginative powers do the rest.”

A Typical Case of Identification.

The following typical case of undoubted identification of a visiting spirit is related by Smedley in his work concerning spiritualistic experiences, and may be taken as a pattern to be followed by investigators in demanding and obtaining proofs of identity in cases where same is asserted. The medium in this case was a woman of high standing in spiritualistic circles, and the séance took place in Mr. Smedley’s own home. The medium was at that time a perfect stranger to the Smedley family, and to their little circle of invited friends. The séance was opened by the singing of hymns, and before long the medium went under control. Mr. Smedley says: “She passed under the control of an intelligent being, opened her eyes, and manifested the greatest amazement.” He then relates the subsequent experience as follows:

Recalling Past Incidents.

“After looking around the room very deliberately at various objects, then at one person after another, and fixing her eyes on my wife, she ran across the room, and throwing her arms around my wife’s neck, she kissed her most affectionately, addressing her as ‘My dear sister.’ After speaking with my wife in endearing terms, she came across the room to me, and placing her right hand on my shoulder, said: ’Well, my dear brother.’ (This was exactly as a deceased sister of my wife had been in the habit of doing.) ’How unspeakingly glad I am for such a privilege as this! When we used to sit by the hearth at night, conversing on various topics that used to interest us so much, we little expected we should ever have such a privilege. You know we used to sit up at night discussing theological questions till the embers in the grate died out, and sometimes a chiding voice from upstairs cried out: “Alfred, Alfred, do come to bed. Do you know what time it is? You know Charlotte is not fit to sit up so late."’ This was precisely what had taken place, the exact words being used.

Identifying Property.

“She referred to a number of incidents known only to her and ourselves. She asked for an album in which she had written the dedication, pointing this out, and also various pieces of poetry she had written in it. She asked for a hymn-book, and desired us to sing what had been her favorite hymn, which at my request she instantly found. She next asked for a Bible, and asked me to read her favorite Psalm. I requested her to find it, although I knew well which it was. She turned to it instantly, and I read: ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ etc. When the Psalm was finished, the medium stood transfigured before us; her countenance was radiant, and her eyes bright with a heavenly light. Turning to my wife, she said: ’Sister, dear, by inviting strangers to your house tonight you have entertained angels unawares!’ After the meeting, the medium remarked: ’When under control I was strongly influenced to look around for a picture, but could not find it. I do not know what it meant, but the control was anxious to find a picture.’ My wife replied: ’My sister painted a picture of the Saviour bearing His cross, many years ago, and it now hangs in our dining room.’ The above incidents, combined with her mannerisms, and bearing in mind that the medium was an entire stranger to us, and uneducated, were sufficient evidence of the presence and influence of her deceased sister to cause my wife to exclaim, ’of A truth, that was my sister Charlotte!’”

Identifying Historical Personages.

Of course, a close, personal identification, similar to that stated in the above recital, is impossible in cases when the spirit claims to be some well-known historical personage. But in the last named class of cases it will be found possible to ask questions concerning the life and career of the supposed celebrity, and to form a general idea of the correctness of the claim by the quality and general character of the answers given. It will be found that genuine spirits are nearly always anxious to definitely establish the truth of their claims to identity, and will often go to great pains to do so. The character of the language employed, the grammar followed, and the general evidence of the intellectual capacity of the spirit, all these will be found useful in testing cases of claimed identity; and no genuine spirit has any just cause to object to such tests and questions, if made in the proper scientific spirit, and with ordinary politeness. In short, treat the spirit just as you would were he in the flesh, speaking to you over a telephone, and endeavoring to establish his identity; this will always be a safe and just rule to employ and follow.