From Chapter II.
Spiritualism and “Psychic Research”
Spiritism constitutes the avant-garde of the new spiritualism. It has raised the call to revolt against materialism and was immediately afterward followed in this by Theosophism. Even now, these two split the large majority of those who are passionate about the invisible. It is not irrelevant to note that both these movements were born in Protestant Anglo-Saxon countries, and that certain women--the Fox sisters for the one, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and then A. Besant for the other--played a fundamental role in their origins.
Spiritism was the first to bring the attention of the general public back to an order of phenomena, which, in all honesty, was well-known to antiquity, but which was later denied and considered phantasms and the fantasies of superstitious mind, because they departed from the framework of the “positivist” vision of the world which consolidated itself in the last century. The entire worth of spiritism begins and ends here.
Spiritism did not limit itself to drawing attention to the reality of these phenomena, but sought in every possible way to favor them and to provoke them, discovering the so-called mediums and proposing for itself the task of developing latent mediumistic faculties. It also sought an explanation for these phenomena; and insofar as it relates them to the action of “spirits” (broadly, the “spirits” of deceased humans) and claims to furnish, by this route, a kind of experimental proof of the survival of the soul, or even of the soul’s immortality, the resulting position is spiritism properly understood.
The examination and the production both of these phenomena and of all others of an extranormal character, without an obligatory theoretical and interpretive superstructure, and above all under rigorous scientific control and with an attitude analogous to that which is assumed for the exploration and the classification of “natural” phenomena in the reduced sense of the word, constitutes rather the object of so-called “psychic” or “metapsychic” or “parapsychic research.” This research, organized in a more recent period and heading up numerous institutes and societies, has reclaimed and integrated the positive aspect, as we deem it, of spiritism, in the sense that thanks to its assessments, it is no longer possible to doubt the reality of the extranormal. However, for this research as well, its entire worth begins and ends here.
Moreover, limiting ourselves to the order of phenomena on which spiritism especially focuses its attention, and to that part of psychic research which is not mere study but rather a favoring and cultivation of mediumship (even if it is with the simple intent of obtaining an ever broader material for investigation), it must be said that we find ourselves before a current, which in its whole, presents the typical aspect we have already mentioned by which “spiritualism” constitutes a danger for the spirit. Mediumship might be defined as a method for favoring or emphasizing the disintegration of the internal unity of the person. Having partially freed a certain group of subtler elements from the body, man, as medium, becomes the organ for the manifestation in our world of forces and of influences of an extremely diverse, but always subpersonal, nature. The medium cannot control these forces and influences in any way, since his consciousness either captures only certain effects, or else slides directly into sleep, into a trance, into catalepsy.
Nor do matters stand otherwise with the others--that is, with the spiritists who await the manifestation of the dead on the one hand, and on the other hand with those who scientifically control the sittings. The last of their worries is having a just sense and judgment regarding the spiritual conditions that favor these manifestations. For the first group, all of this has value passively as “revelation,” and what essentially counts for them is the “sensational” and whatever seems to confirm their “spiritic” hypotheses, thus satisfying their sentimental needs. For the second, that is for the “psychic researchers,” man counts as a producer of “phenomena”; phenomena are appreciated insofar as they are unusual and controllable, and one gives little thought to what happens from the internal point of view. They too would have no scruples in using all kinds of means, hypnotic procedures, and special substances, to artificially provoke or intensify mediumship, so as to produce “subjects” fit for their experiments and their findings.
Now, in the random opening, which occurs in the person of the medium, in these points of contact with the invisible, if something should stir and impose itself, the danger is far from being limited to an attempt against the spiritual unity of the medium. Neither the common man nor the “optimists” today have any idea of the dark and impersonal forces that linger at the borders of that reality from which they have been excluded. The medium, by making himself the instrument for the manifestation that they crave, literally has the function of a center of psychic infection for his environment. He acts precisely as medium, that is, channel, through which these forces might exercise an action on our world and on our minds, which stand defenseless before them. The manifestations that are obtained in these “sittings” are only a part of the consequences, and are often negligible and innocuous as compared to that which slips through the ajar doors of the “netherworld.” One could likewise, if one had intelligence to apprehend certain occult laws acting through the weave of common experience, identify certain grave effects both for individuals and for collectives, in relation to the conditions involuntarily and inconsiderately created in these sittings, be they of “spiritic,” “scientific,” or pseudo--initiatic type. To mention only a single case in passing, it would be both interesting and alarming in equal measure to disclose the part that conjuration in general had, in a period before the birth of contemporary spiritualism and of spiritism, in the processes of infiltration and degradation in certain secret organizations, which in turn played a principal role in the revolutionary European subversion.