The above is considered the best reason that can be given for the fact that spirits whose character and habits in life are not generally known, or not known to the medium or to those surrounding him, invariably refuse to give proofs of their identity. But is his comparison pertinent? I think not. It might be considered impertinent, nay, the very height of ill-breeding, if one should insist on proofs of identity when a stranger is casually introduced, or introduces himself, in a drawing-room. But let us make another comparison. Suppose a stranger - we, too, will say Arago the astronomer - calls us up by telephone, and makes a statement of the most transcendent interest and importance to us, - a statement which, if true, will change the whole course of our lives and our habits of thought. He states that his special mission is to make this portentous announcement to us, and that his name is Arago, the astronomer. We know Arago the astronomer by reputation, but have never had the honor of his personal acquaintance. We know enough of him, however, to be certain that he would tell us the exact truth as he understood it; and we would stake our dearest interests upon a statement of his regarding that about which he professed to have positive personal knowledge.
Under such circumstances would it be likely to wound his feelings or shock his sense of propriety if we should reply through the telephone something like this: -
"Sir, your message is of portentous import to us, and we cannot hesitate to believe it if we can be assured that you are Arago the astronomer, as you represent. We can hear you, but we cannot see you, and you are not vouched for by any one we know. Please give us some proof of your identity".
Would Arago the astronomer, or any other sensible man, wrap himself in the mantle of offended dignity and treat us with silent contempt, or remind us of "the rules of good-breeding"? Certainly not, especially if the object of his existence was to make the communication, not only for our individual benefit, but for the purpose of giving to all mankind that direct and positive assurance, that tangible evidence, for which all humanity has sought in vain since the dawn of creation.
Our author then continues: -
"While spirits refuse to answer puerile and impertinent questions which a person would have hesitated to ask during their lives, they often spontaneously give irrefutable proofs of their identity by their character, revealed in their language, by the use of words that were familiar to them, by citing certain facts, - particularities of their life sometimes unknown to the assistants, and whose truth has been verified. Proofs of identity will spring up in many unforeseen ways, which do not present themselves at first sight, but in the course of conversations. It is better, then, to wait for them, without calling for them, observing with care all that may flow from the nature of the communications. (See the fact given, No. 70.)"
Turning now to page 82 of the volume, we find the statement above alluded to, and it reads as follows: -
"On a vessel of the Imperial French navy, stationed in the Chinese seas, the whole crew, from the sailors up to the staff-major, were occupied in making tables talk. They hit upon the idea of invoking the spirit of a lieutenant of this same vessel, some two years dead. He came, and after various communications, which astonished every one, he said, by rapping, what follows: 'I pray you instantly to pay the captain the sum of (he mentioned the sum), which I owe him, and which I regret not having been able to repay before my death.' No one knew the fact; the captain himself had forgotten the debt, - a very small one; but on looking over his accounts, he found there the lieutenant's debt, the sum indicated being perfectly correct. We ask, of whose thought could this be the reflection ? "
Here, then, we find the supreme test applied, - the best conditions possible, as prescribed by one of the ablest and most thoughtful writers on the subject. It will be observed that he is not blind to the possibilities of telepathy, and counts it as a factor in the case. "Of whose thought could this be the reflection?" he asks triumphantly. "No one knew the fact; the captain himself had forgotten the debt." It must be admitted that if this test is conclusive, their case has been proved a thousand times over. But in view of what is now known of the laws of telepathy, it is self' evident that it proves nothing. Telepathy, as we have again and again repeated, is the communion of two or more subjective minds. It is not that of which we are consciously thinking that the subjective mind of the medium perceives. Doubtless the captain had forgotten, objectively, all about the loan. It was a very small amount, and the lieutenant had been dead two years. But the subjective mind of the captain, which remembers all things, great and small, could not forget it, and it was telepathed to the subjective mind of the medium. Besides, there was another very potent agency at work to bring this loan into prominence.
We have already seen, in former chapters, that the normal function of the subjective mind is to watch over and protect the life of the individual. It is the strongest instinct of all animate nature. The protection of the material interests of the individual is as much a part of the function of the subjective mind as the protection of his life. Indeed, the promotion of the one is but a means to secure the other. It was, therefore, simple obedience to the first law of nature that prompted the subjective mind of the captain to thrust this loan upon the attention of those present and thus secure its payment.
It may be said, however, that there was no evidence that the captain was present at the seance; and it may be assumed by some that telepathic communion with his mind was impossible in his absence from the circle. The former supposition is possibly correct, but the latter is not probable, in view of the well-known facts of telepathy. But assuming both to be true, - that the captain was absent from the immediate circle, and that the circumstance would prevent telepathic communion with his mind, - there still remain two or three other ways of accounting for the phenomenon. In the first place, it is extremely probable that the captain's accounts were kept by a subordinate, who was present, and who, subjectively at least, remembered the account. It is distinctly stated that all the subordinates were present, " from the sailors up to the staff-major." This would necessarily include the one whose duty it was to keep the books. His subjective mind would be just as available as that of the captain for the production of what, in those days, was considered a test case.