When it became known to his audiences and subjects that the latter were liable to be "controlled by spirits," the trouble became very marked, and the professor was greatly annoyed by the frequency with which his subjects were seized upon by "passing spirits," and made to receive communications and perform other antics in the name of the spirits of their dead acquaintances. The phenomena exhibited through these subjects were identical with those shown through ordinary mediums, and indeed some of his best subjects afterwards became successful professional mediums. That the liability of the professor's subjects to lapse into mediumship was the result of suggestion is shown by the fact that Professor Carpenter, who was Cadwell's pupil, and operated by his methods, and was in every sense his peer as an operator, never had any trouble with mediumistic phenomena, for the simple reason that he was careful to avoid suggesting the idea to his subjects that such a thing was possible. In point of fact it is well known to many hypnotists that all the phenomena of spiritism can be reproduced through their subjects by simply suggesting to them that they are under the control of spirits.
Of course it may be said that the spirits do actually take possession of a hypnotic subject when permitted to do so, and that it is the genuine control of spirits after all. The answer to this is that it is also just as easy to obtain communications from a living person through a hypnotic subject as from a dead one, and from an imaginary person as from a real one, by merely making the proper suggestion. The same is true of any medium, for that matter, as will presently be shown.
It is obvious, therefore, that the universal law of suggestion operates upon the subjective mind of a medium with the same force and certainty as upon all others. He is in the subjective, or hypnotic, condition. The suggestion that he is about to be controlled by the spirits of the dead is ever present to his mind, and is all potent. It is a part of his education. It is his religious belief. No other explanation of the mysterious phenomena is known to him. He knows only that he is moved by a power, an intelligence, over which he exerts no conscious control. It gives utterance to thoughts beyond his comprehension, and possesses knowledge of matters of which he consciously knows nothing. His conclusion is, first that the intelligence is something extraneous to his personality, and secondly that it must be that of an inhabitant of another world. From his standpoint it is the only rational conclusion. His hereditary belief in the immortality of the soul confirms it. His reading of the Bible sanctions the belief in the power of spirits to hold communion with the living.
His hope of a life beyond the grave, and his longing to hold communion with the loved and lost, combine to give his conclusions a welcome reception in the chambers of his mind.
A more potent suggestion was never forced upon the subjective mind of man than this; and in obedience to the universal law, it must be believed by the medium's subjective mind, and acted upon accordingly. And the subjective mind does believe the suggestion most implicitly. If it did not, the law of suggestion would have no place in experimental psychology, and all the conclusions deducible therefrom would have to be revised. So believing, it follows that, when questioned, it will unhesitatingly affirm that it is the spirit of whatever person is suggested; and so far as the medium knows the character or antecedents of the spirit invoked, that spirit will be personated with all the preternatural acumen characteristic of subjective mental activity.
If the chain of reasoning by which the medium and his friends have arrived at the conclusion that the phenomena must proceed from disembodied spirits seems to them to be perfect, their conviction rises to the dignity of a certainty, in their estimation, when the supposed spirit begins to forward alleged communications from the hypothetical borderland of another world. They find that his alleged "control" is able to tell them secrets which they supposed to be safe in their own custody, or perhaps only known to themselves and the deceased whose spirit has been invoked. He will describe the character and personal appearance of deceased persons whom it was impossible that he should have known in life, sometimes even giving their names and ages; he will tell of incidents in their career known only to the person for whose benefit the communication is given.
If the sitter is sceptical, and has learned something of telepathy, his ready objection is that all this is "mind-reading." But presently the medium will describe some one of whom the sitter has not thought for years, who was utterly unknown to the medium, and of whom he never heard. It is then that the sitter is confounded. His telepathic explanation is exploded, for he "was not thinking of the deceased at all; it could not, therefore, be mind-reading," he declares, with all the enthusiasm of a new convert whose last objection has been answered.
There is no more common or popular explanation of certain phases of spiritistic phenomena than attributing them to mind-reading. When a medium relates to you incidents of your life of which you know he has no previous knowledge, the most obvious explanation is that he reads your mind, - that is, if you do not believe that he is controlled by spirits ; and you are undoubtedly right. But when he tells you of things that you had forgotten, and describes persons of whom you are not thinking, you jump to the conclusion that thought-reading does not explain that particular phenomenon. And it is just here that you make a mistake, for the reason that you do not understand the first principles of mind-reading. But when it is once understood that mind-reading is the communion of two subjective minds, and that the objective or conscious thoughts of the sitter have no necessary effect upon the character of the communications, it will be seen that the fact that the sitter was not consciously thinking of the person described, or had forgotten the incident recalled, has no evidential value whatever.
The sitter may or may not be thinking consciously of the subject of the communication; he may even be endeavoring to cause the medium to speak of some particular one with whom he earnestly desires to communicate. It makes no difference whatever, for it is the uppermost thought of the subjective mind that is read, and of that the sitter has neither knowledge nor conscious control. That the me-dlum relates incidents of the sitter's life which he had forgotten until reminded of them, is not at all strange or unaccountable, when we remember that the memory of the subjective mind is perfect. Neither is there any evidential value in the fact that the sitter cannot remember an incident related by the medium; for he must remember that objective memory retains little, comparatively, of the incidents of life, while the subjective mind retains all.
It will thus be seen that in order to explain the phenomena of spiritism on the hypothesis that it has its origin wholly within the sub-conscious mind of the medium, it is not necessary to presuppose that he is dishonest or insincere when he attributes it to disembodied spirits. In the absence of knowledge on his part of the recent discoveries in psychological science, he has the best of reasons for so believing, for up to the present time no other hypothesis has been advanced which will account for all the phenomena on any other rational supposition. But the two great laws - duality of mind and suggestion - clear away the greatest stumbling-block in the way of scientific investigation of this, the greatest problem of the ages. It is now no longer necessary to deny the phenomena, since they can all be accounted for on scientific principles, outside the domain of the supernatural. It is no longer necessary to consider the spiritual medium either a fool or an impostor, since the phenomena are genuine, and their explanation on scientific principles is impossible, except in the light of very recent discoveries in psychic science.
Having set forth the fundamental principles underlying the production of so-called spirit phenomena, we will now proceed briefly to examine their various phases and leading characteristics, and to show how the hypothesis under consideration applies to each of them with the same force and pertinency as in the case of the other psychic phenomena which have been considered.