Psychography, A Treatise of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena 1840 - 1892




BEYOND the evidence obtained by the senses of the observer, and from the fact that the subject-matter of the communications frequently contains what the Psychic could not be supposed to know, as well as from the fact that the language in which it is conveyed is one with which he is not familiar, there are additional tests which go still further to show the impossibility of previous preparation for purposes of deception.


It must be borne in mind that these writings are not obtained solely by professional Psychics, who, having an interest in procuring them for money, may be supposed to be under some temptation to manufacture a counterfeit when the real article is not forthcoming. They are of frequent, not to say regular occurrence in families into which no professional aid ever is admitted, when the matter of the writing is of so private a nature usually as to be held sacred, and where publicity is neither asked nor tolerated. Such cases form a very large factor in a fair argument on this question.


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And in this connexion I am concerned to say again that the so-called exposure of the modus operandi of a professional Psychic by a professional conjurer is of so little importance as to be practically nihil ad rem [nothing to do with the point]. Mr. Maskelyne, on his own stage, surrounded by his own confederates, and using his own prepared apparatus, does something which burlesques the results obtained by Slade. What then? If the imitation were moderately good, it would be a creditable counterfeit, such as the skilful illusionist should have no difficulty in producing on his own terms. The stage thunder, the stage dinner, the false sovereign, the mask and wig of the actor, may all be made more or less like the reality which they counterfeit. Mr. Maskelyne's is a sorry piece of illusion, unworthy one who passes as so great an artist, and only excusable because he finds it good enough for his method of misguiding a credulous public. But were it never so good, what would it prove? Simply that a thing can be imitated when unlimited means of so doing are provided. That is hardly a point that we need to have demonstrated; and if those who lay stress upon it find any comfort in that demonstration they are welcome to it. If, however, they flatter themselves that it extends any further, then they must be advised to commence the study of logic.


Furthermore, let it be remembered that the conjurer is a man who has devoted special faculties, specially trained, to the development of his art. His nimble fingers have gone through many a weary lesson before they have enabled him to do what he does. The


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Psychic, as often as not, is a lady or gentleman, a boy, or even a child, who could not perform a Maskelyne trick to save his or her life, and who has usually as little knowledge of the method by which the results are obtained as my reader probably has. It is Nature versus Art; and in this, as in all other cases, though Art may copy, it cannot rival Nature.


A great deal is made too, and quite naturally, of the tricks that can be played in the dark, when a trained and practised trickster has full liberty for his pranks. As I write there lies before me this week's Academy (Jan. 5, 1878), in which a review of Houdin's Conjuring is made the vehicle for a long story of the method of imposture used on a certain occasion (not specified) by a Psychic (not named) at a time and place (not particularised) in Cambridge. This is, most unfairly, turned into a sort of illustration of the way in which Slade managed his business. The critic, who evidently knows nothing of the subject, must prepare himself to answer such cases as those adduced here before his attacks will have much weight. As a matter of fact, no case is here recorded which took place in darkness; none where any such imposture as he relies upon was possible; none where the critic can fairly say that every reasonable precaution was not taken to insure fair and straightforward dealing.


I reiterate the fact that, when these experiments are made in public, they are made under rigid conditions which preclude deception. Men familiar with the phenomena, and who are not scared or driven off their balance by their occurrence, subject them to


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repeated observation, and evoke them under carefully prescribed conditions. They are not content to leave a conjurer's license to the Psychic, but compel him to attempt his experiment under conditions which render it absolutely sure that all is straightforward, and which frequently are so rigid as to make success all but impossible. Under these conditions many of the experiments quoted in this treatise have been conducted, and I claim to advance my argument a step further by referring here to some of the most conspicuous.


I have already recorded that Watkins has submitted himself to the careful testing of a committee, in a strange hall, and with slates which he had never even seen. Under these circumstances fifty words were written. This is a fair instance of the difference between the modus operandi of the true Psychic, and the method of the conjurer.


In a similar manner Slade, when in London, voluntarily came from his own rooms to those of the British Association of Spiritualists, 38 Great Russell Street, and submitted himself to test by a committee specially selected from the members of that association, and permanently organised for the purpose of conducting scientific research into Psychic phenomena. He made no other condition save this. He requested that the committee should experiment with him by twos, as he had found by experience that the best results are obtained when the number of persons present is small. He was willing to use the table and slates provided by the committee, and made no


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stipulation whatever as to who the observers should be, or in what order or manner they tested his powers.


From the carefully-recorded minutes of the committee I extract the reports of Mr. Desmond FitzGerald, M.S.Tel.E., and Mr. J. W. Gray, C.E.; of Mr. George King, and Dr. Carter Blake, Doc. Sci.; and of Mr. T. H. Edmands and Mr. Hannah.