This digression is indulged in for the purpose of illustrating the fact that one of the means by which telepathic impressions are conveyed from one to another is by visions. The percipient sees a vision representing the incident sought to be communicated by the agent. He sees the image of the object or person which the agent desires him to see. Thus, when a person consults a medium he generally expects and desires to learn something of his deceased friends. The medium goes into the subjective condition for that purpose. The visitor's mind is full of anticipation and hope that he will be put into direct communication with the loved and lost. Presently the medium sees a vision of some person. He believes that he sees a spirit. He describes it, and it is found to correspond with one of the visitor's deceased friends. The visitor recognizes the description, and says so. He asks for the name, and it is given. Then the medium sees a vision representing some incident known only to the visitor and the deceased. He describes the incident, not, perhaps, as a vision which he sees, but as a statement of fact imparted to him by the spirit. The visitor very likely knows that the medium knew nothing of him or of the deceased before that hour.
He is convinced that the medium has seen and conversed with the spirit of his dead friend, and he is a convert to spiritism from that moment. Now, has the medium actually seen a spirit, or has he merely read the sitter's subjective mind? Is there any more reason for supposing that he has seen a spirit of a dead man than there is for supposing that a mind-reader sees the spirit of the Jack of clubs when the image of that card is telepathed to him? Obviously not. The conditions are precisely the same in both cases. The percipient sees the image of that which is in the mind of the agent. In the one case, it is a card; in the other it is an individual. If it is the spirit of the individual that is seen in the one case, it is the spirit of the card that is seen in the other. In the case of the New York medium, did she see the spirit of the Patent Office, the spirits of the papers, the drawings, the desks, and the spirit of the examiner seated at the spirit of one of the desks, examining the spirits of the drawings and of the specifications?
I repeat it, the percipient sees the image of that which is in the mind of the agent, and he never sees more than that. It often happens that the image of some one is seen, of whom the agent is not consciously thinking at the moment. This has been already explained, on the obvious ground that it is the subjective, or unconscious, mind of the agent that is read. It sometimes happens that some fact is related, some scene described, which the sitter cannot recall to mind, and he conscientiously declares that he never knew the fact related, nor witnessed the incident depicted. But when it is remembered that the subjective mind of man retains all that he has ever seen, heard, or read, and that he retains comparatively little in his objective recollection, it is extremely unsafe for him to declare that any one fact has never been known to him. It is merely negative evidence at best, and amounts only to a declaration that he does not recall the fact. When we consider how little we retain, in our objective recollection, of what we have seen, heard, or read, we may well wonder that it does not oftener happen that so-called spirits tell us of circumstances which we do not remember.
On the whole, it may be safely assumed that no medium has ever yet been able to impart any information that is not known either to the medium or to some living person with whom he is en rapport. There is certainly nothing but the merest negative evidence, such as has been described, that such a thing ever happened. On the other hand, there is the strongest possible evidence to the contrary, in the fact that there is room for a doubt on that question. It is self-evident that if facts, known neither to the medium nor those surrounding him, - that is, facts not known to him nor obtainable by means of telepathy, - can be perceived or obtained by him from independent sources, the evidence of that fact would be thrust upon us from ten thousand different sources every hour. This is also negative evidence, it is true, but it is all but conclusive. Thus, the question of spirit identity has given spiritists no end of trouble. Their ablest writers have sought in vain for a solution of the question why it is that spirits constantly fail to give conclusive evidence of their identity by means which could not be referred to the knowledge of the medium or to telepathy.
On this subject Allan Kardec, one of the ablest writers on the subject, discourses as follows:-
"The identity of contemporaneous spirits is much more easily proved, - those whose character and habits are known; for it is precisely these habits, which they have not yet had time to throw aside, by which they can be recognized." 1
This may be true; but it is also true that where the "character and habits " of a supposed spirit are known to the medium, or to those who are in telepathic rapport with him, simulation of that character and those habits is perfectly easy to the expert medium. The more generally the character and habits are known, the less evidential value is to be attached to their reproduction.
Our author then proceeds: -
"Without doubt the spirit can give the proofs if asked, but he does not always do so, unless it is agreeable to him, and generally the asking wounds him; for this reason it should be avoided. In leaving his body the spirit has not laid aside his susceptibility; he is wounded by any question tending to put him to the proof. It is such questions as one would not dare to propose to him, were he living, for fear of overstepping the bounds of propriety; why, then, should there be less regard after his death? Should a man enter a drawing-room and de-cline to give his name, should we insist, at all hazards, that he should prove his identity by exhibiting his titles, under the pretext that there are impostors? Would he not, assuredly, have the right to remind his interrogator of the rules of good breed, ing? This is what the spirits do, either by not replying or by withdrawing. Let us make a comparison. Suppose the astronomer Arago during his life had presented himself in a house where no one knew him, and he had been thus addressed: 'You say you are Arago; but as we do not know you, please prove it by answering our questions solve this astronomical problem; tell us your name, your Christian name, those of your children, what you did such and such a day, at such an hour, etc.' What would he have answered? Well, as a spirit he will do just what he would have done during his lifetime; and other spirits do the same".
1 Book on Mediums, pp. 331-2.