Just as in the hysteric we meet with mechanical ways of deceit, shown by self-inflicted injuries, so in the medium we meet with mechanical tricks for the production of spurious phenomena. In both cases fully-conscious deceit, reconciled to the moral complexes by rationalisations, is the easiest explanation, but sometimes fully-conscious deceit is unlikely.
There is a disappointing lack of originality in spiritualist literature, for the same stories of the marvellous are repeated in one book and another. The Fox Sisters, Slade, Eglington, Eusapia Palladino and others appear according to the fancy of the writer, and their fraudulent tricks may or may not be acknowledged. It is a peculiarity of spiritualist reasoning that if a medium is caught cheating it only proves that he was cheating when he was caught; if he is not caught next time, we must accept as genuine the phenomena then produced.
But no spiritualist writer can avoid the names of Home, Stainton Moses and Mrs. Piper, for _they were never caught cheating_; nevertheless, we apparently need testimonials at great length to their honesty. Mr. J. Arthur Hill gives two pages of testimonials to Stainton Moses, and repeats a story telling how the Reverend medium made an automatic drawing of a horse and truck and gave a spirit message concerning a man who had been killed that day under a steamroller in Baker Street. Mr. Hill says: ‘Mr. Moses had passed through Baker Street in the afternoon, but had heard nothing of any such incident.'
[Footnote 26: _Spiritualism_, p. 64. Cassell & Co., 1918.]
If Mr. Hill knew anything about dissociation he would not give us this oft-quoted but flimsy story. Whence does he obtain his evidence that the medium had heard nothing of the incident? Of course, from the honest personality of Mr. Stainton Moses himself.
But a story of some terrifying episode is often, by psychological technique, extracted from a war-strained soldier only to be repressed and honestly denied by the man a little while later. If the dissociated sufferer can deny the truth of an incident which, when recalled again, fills him with horror, then the denial by another Dissociate that he has heard of a street accident does not carry weight, even if we read a bookful of testimony to his honesty.
The accounts of this famous medium, who is still held in awe by believers, are full of such happenings. On another occasion the spirit in possession of him gave the names of members of a family who had died in India and were unknown to him or any one present. The names were verified by reference to the obituary column of _The Times_ of a few days before. We can assume that the honest Stainton Moses did not read _The Times_, but that the dissociated Stainton Moses read and remembered.
With this dissociation well established and having for its object the production of occult phenomena, we can understand the rest of the manifestations that he produced for his circle of friends. He received numerous communications from the dead, produced spirit lights, transferred objects from one room to another through closed doors, floated about, and, in short, went through all the spiritualist repertory.
The ball is kept rolling by all sorts of people. The late Archdeacon Wilberforce, who believed in ‘objective entities that seem able to manipulate or influence nerve currents, or magnetic ether, or whatever it is, of persons in the flesh’, wrote approvingly of him: ‘The most remarkable medium I ever knew was the Reverend Stainton Moses, a clergyman in my father’s diocese of Oxford’.
[Footnote 27: _There is no Death_, p. 14.]
[Footnote 28: _Ibid._, p. 62.]
Of the same medium Mr. Podmore says: ‘Apart from the moral difficulties involved, there is little or nothing to forbid the supposition that the whole of these messages were deliberately concocted by Mr. Moses himself and palmed off upon his unsuspecting friends.'
[Footnote 29: _Studies in Psychical Research_, p. 133.]
The moral difficulties disappear when we consider the case as one of dissociation. His spirit communications were psychologically identical with the automatic writings of the Glastonbury archæologists (see Chapter IX); he read obituary notices, studied out-of-the-way stories of men and women, and from the stores of his unconscious he produced this information as news from the spirit world. But, knowing nothing of the ways of the unconscious and becoming a prey to his own dissociated stream, he fed this stream and drifted with it into something a little removed from sanity.
I know not how the manifestations began, and whether he belonged to my second or third group I do not attempt to discuss; I am satisfied if I have made it clear that the work of this wonderful medium can be explained otherwise than by one of the two alternatives of spiritualism or conscious deceit.