THE HEROIC stage of metapsychics would seem to be nearing its end. The reality
of mediumistic phenomena is certainly not yet accepted without discussion and
reservations, but it is no longer systematically denied. Demonstrative
experiments, everywhere undertaken of late years, especially those of
Baron von Schrenck-Notzing in
Germany, and those of the International Metapsychic Institute in France, have
been decisive. The last objections are gradually diminishing, and fresh men of
science are daily devoting themselves resolutely to research.
We may soon expect a general impetus to these studies, which only the scarcity
of good mediums can retard.
I therefore consider that it will be useful to call the attention of students
new to the subject to the special difficulties of the task they are undertaking.
They must fully understand that metapsychic experiment is a delicate matter
and one that cannot be improvised.
To be fruitful of results it needs a profound knowledge of the phases and
variations of mediumship and of the (unpublished) methods of experimentation
that these phases necessitate. A medium is a human instrument needing much more
complicated and delicate handling than chemical substances or physical
Moreover, we still know very little; such knowledge of mediumship as we have has
been acquired empirically and only after innumerable gropings. At present,
however, some definite rules and precise ideas have become apparent, and these I
shall endeavour to put in a clear light.
1. The General Type of Experimentation
Mediumistic investigations belong to the class of "collective experiments,"
for the phenomena are the results of subconscious psycho-physiological
collaboration between the medium and the experimenters.
Unless this fundamental idea is consistently kept in mind scarcely anything will
be understood of mediumship either theoretically or practically.
Doubtless it is the medium who plays the principal part in this collaboration;
he is the deus ex machina without whom nothing would be manifest. But,
left to himself, he is nearly powerless. With certain exceptions, his faculty,
usually latent, only appears spontaneously and casually in irregular and
In the intellectual type of mediumship at least two psychisms in collaboration
are required for the active manifestation of supernormal faculty; and physical
mediumship also needs association of such psycho-physiological forces as the
conditions of the séance may permit.
Therefore in both cases, though the medium is the originating focus of the
manifestations, he is not their only cause.
In ectoplasmic manifestations the appearance of the phenomena is necessarily
induced by a dynamic and material externalisation of a portion of the organism
of the medium. The pages that here immediately follow deal principally with
But if limited to this elementary externalisation, the phenomena will be very
middling, hardly perceptible, and often nil. If, on the contrary, a favourable
environment renders possible what may be termed a "call" on the latent forces of
the experimenters by the forces emanating from the medium, everything is
changed. The faculties of the medium are reinforced and increased by this
association; his dynamic and material emanations become markedly stronger, and
phenomena of telekinesis and materialisation immediately appear.
Ochorowicz calculated, on the basis of many dynamometrical observations, that
the sitters had lost energy. He concluded that the sum of such losses
corresponded to the average power of a man, as if these had been used in the
creation of a separate dynamic organism at the expense of the persons present,
including the medium.
From the preceding it follows that the first term in the problem of
experimentation consists in establishing a favourable environment. If this
essential condition is not present no success is to be expected. For this reason
it is absurd and useless to expect any result from competitions, challenges, or
offers of prizes to mediums. Even very powerful mediums, when isolated and
disturbed by the divergent or hostile wills of a "jury," are reduced to
For analogous reasons the examination of a medium by a committee composed of
learned men ill-prepared for the task they have undertaken is very chancy. If
the committee is not actively interested in the task and does not conduct its
experiments sympathetically, it will obtain poor results or none at all. To
attribute the success of a good séance, or the responsibility for a bad one,
solely to the medium is entirely erroneous. Desert and responsibility are always
collective, as are the experiments themselves. Whenever the practical study of
mediumship is seriously undertaken, it is indispensable that both medium and
sitters should be alike considered, since (and this cannot be over-emphasised)
both medium and experimenters have an equal share in success or failure.
2. The Medium
What is "a medium"? One whose constituent elements - mental, dynamic, and
material - are capable of being momentarily decentralised.
The innate tendency to dissociation in these peculiar constitutions is increased
by the practice of mediumship, which tends to render the primarily abnormal
state more and more easy and normal.
 For the biologic causes and consequences
of this faculty of dissociation, I refer the reader to my book "From the
Unconscious to the Conscious", which I hope to complete by that which I have
This tendency is innate. In fact, mediumship is hereditary. I have found this to
be the case with all the powerful mediums that I have studied - both clairvoyants
and those capable of ectoplasmic phenomena. Sometimes this heredity is direct,
sometimes it appears in ancestors or collaterals; but it is always there, so
clearly as to be undeniable.
Mediumship may therefore be described as an hereditary "gift" conditioned by a
tendency to decentralisation of the constituent psychological factors of the
This notion of the hereditary nature of the "gift" allows us, in some measure,
to understand why mediumship is so rare in the Western nations. I have heard
this often maintained in Poland. Poles consider that the Inquisition and legal
proceedings against "sorcery" have very largely extinguished the race of mediums
in Western Europe. Among the thousands of persons condemned to the stake during
many centuries, the majority were victims of hysteria, along with a considerable
minority of real mediums... Subjective mediumship escaped destruction to some
extent; but objective mediumship, being more easily discerned and more striking
in its manifestations, would seem to have been nearly extirpated. From this
point of view the work of the Inquisition and prosecutions for sorcery,
instituted for other ends, must have had important consequences, disastrous
alike to science and to truth.
Analysis of the mediumistic gift reveals two characteristics which have both
practical and theoretical importance:
A. Mediumship tends to appear spontaneously and early in life, like artistic
Observation confirms this. All powerful mediums are born mediums and remain so
throughout life. Less powerful subjects are to be found in considerable numbers,
and the development of their gift will be dependent on its training and
practice. The cases of the child medium and the child artist are alike.
B. Despite the diversity in its manifestations, all mediumship is essentially
To outward seeming there is nothing in common between clairvoyance and
ectoplasmic phenomena. Nevertheless, they are certainly the same in essence. In
the first place, all mediums, whether subjective or objective, have a similar
psychology; they are suggestible, hypersensitive, unstable in their moods,
capricious, easily provoked to anger, and emotional. Moreover - and this is
important - observation shows that clairvoyance and materialisation can be
coexistent and sometimes alternate one with the other. As an instance of
co-existent psychic and physical gifts, I will cite that of
Franek Kluski. His
clairvoyance., which takes the form of automatic writing, is sometimes almost
terrifying. Franek is a universal medium, a king among his contemporaries.
Nevertheless, this co-existence is rare. Generally there is a sharply marked
alternation between intellectual and physical mediumship. I can quote three
1. Eva C. This medium at certain times in her life has shown very remarkable
phenomena of the intellectual type. She has "read" automatically on an imaginary
screen, like that of a cinema, pages of philosophy. These automatic productions
had no relation to her normal powers and knowledge, and greatly exceeded these
latter. This was very interesting, but during this period of her mediumship the
ectoplasmic faculty disappeared.
2. The wonderful clairvoyant, Stephan Ossowiecki produced extraordinary phenomena of telekinesis in his youth; but at
such times his clairvoyance was eclipsed.
3. Madame Silbert of Graz had all her life been a clairvoyante pure and simple;
she had shown no physical faculties. Five or six years ago she attended
spiritualist séances for several months, and became an excellent physical
medium, but lost her clairvoyance.
These observations are very important:
From the theoretical point of view they prove that mediumship is at first a
single faculty: a very young medium has all its potentialities. Specialisation
comes later. He is led by personal affinities, or by hereditary predisposition,
to exercise only some one or other faculty, and loses the others. But this
specialisation is never absolute or final. Nevertheless, simultaneous physical
and intellectual mediumship in the same person is the exception; one or other
must be chosen and seems to absorb all the powers of the individual.
From the practical point of view, the above-mentioned characteristics should
enable us to find mediums and to train them rationally. Intellectual mediumship
is vastly more common, in the West at any rate, than the physical type. It is
not impossible, as we have seen, to transform a clairvoyant into a physical
medium, and the younger the person the more easily this can be done; but it
remains practicable even in advanced years with time and patience. But the first
condition will always be to suppress the exercise of clairvoyance.
I say nothing on the rational education of mediumship, for the very good reason
that evidence is wanting on this point.
M. Lebiedzinski, an engineer at Warsaw, who has studied many mediums, gives much
importance to their impulses. He thinks that most of them tend to reproduce
phenomena that they have had the opportunity of seeing produced by others.
Suggestions, especially those that are indirect and unconscious, also play a
great part. He thinks that in the future, new and varied phenomena may be
obtained by using young mediums fresh to the subject. The future will show how
much truth there is in these theoretical views.
In this connection it will be well to study the influence of regimen and mode of
life on the development of mediumship. Orientals, it would seem, insist on a
vegetable diet and on conditions which resemble those of the Vestals of
antiquity. They claim also that experimenters should observe certain rules of
life and use certain empirical procedure. In the West we have no experience of
these methods of training.
3. The Conditions for Good Output
A. The medium must be in good health. Any indisposition, even if slight,
diminishes or even suppresses his faculties for the time. I have seen very
powerful mediums, such as Kluski, paralysed by a cold or toothache. Muscular
fatigue or nervous exhaustion (abuse of séances, genital excess, immoderate use
of alcohol or drugs, insomnia, etc.) have the same inhibitive effect.
B. The medium must be in a good temper. He is a sensitive, and feels
acutely the slightest moral dispositions of those about him. Experimenters
should make efforts to gain his sympathy, should give him courteous attentions
and treat him as a friend and coadjutor. If they misuse him, show crude
suspicion, or even despise him as a mere instrument or an animal for
experimentation, they create deplorable conditions and risk total unsuccess. I
repeat that sympathy between the medium and the experimenters is an essential,
or nearly essential, condition for success. Irony and ridicule are even more
inhibitive than ill-will or want of skill. Mental or material anxiety, sorrow,
and preoccupation also militate against results.
C. The medium must have confidence in the experimenters. Every kind of
check imaginable may be proposed to him, but it is mere prudence to explain it
to him clearly, so that he understands the purpose in view and the nature of the
control. He is instinctively distrustful; he feels painfully, and quite
reasonably, that during his trance he is abandoned, defenceless, to the mercy of
the experimenters. If he does not know them well he fears some untimely or
unskilful measure that may cause him injury or pain. If he sees around him
unaccustomed instruments or laboratory apparatus, he dreads some painful
experiment; and the more ignorant he is, the greater will be his distrust. A
very simple instance will show how justifiable this distrust may be. Nothing is
more common than for some ill-advised experimenter to take from his pocket an
electric lamp and turn it on the medium during a materialisation séance. What
happens? The medium is roughly awakened from his trance. If there is any
ectoplasm, it abruptly re-enters the organism without preliminary modification.
This abrupt re-absorption is always accompanied by painful and exhausting
nervous shock. An incident of this kind fatigues the medium greatly, and often
inhibits his faculties for several days.
It is particularly noticeable that the shock is proportional to the duration of
the light and not to its intensity. The magnesium flash, lasting only the
fraction of a second, disturbs the medium less than the ray of a pocket-lamp,
which can never be instantaneous, since its purpose is to observe the medium.
But it is necessary to know this; novices in experiment are quite ignorant of
this fact. Rough examination, the seizure of materialised forms, react even more
strongly and painfully on the nervous system. If the medium, rightly or wrongly,
dreads such behaviour, his trance will be imperfect or null, and the séance will
D. The medium should be comfortable. Control, though it may be full and
satisfactory, should not be such as to cause discomfort, or a fortiori,
pain such as to prevent his sleep. Ectoplasmic trance is a hypnoid state that is
slight and very unstable, and may easily be annihilated by untimely or unskilful
It is always well, both for adequate control and for the comfort of the medium
(here both conditions are concurrent), that he should be undressed before the
séance and clothed in warm and roomy garments. The temperature of the room
should be warm but not hot. Other conditions may vary according to the medium's
habits. Some go into trance more easily when fasting, others after a meal. All
such secondary conditions should be adapted to the habits of the person under
4. The Experimenters
The number of these may vary according to the dispositions of the medium; the
average number is from four to seven.
Age and health play an important part. It is indispensable that the majority of
the experimenters should not be too old. A séance with old men only would be
entirely defective; the younger the sitters, the more favourable will be the
conditions for experiment.
All should be in good health and willing. If one of the sitters should be
indisposed, fatigued, or preoccupied with serious anxieties, he should withdraw.
There should be mutual sympathy among themselves and with the medium. The
presence of antagonistic and divergent intentions is a cause of disturbance and
failure. This reciprocal sympathy creates a harmonious atmosphere. Similarly,
the constitution of the group should remain constant.
The sitters should be passive. It matters little whether they be sceptical or
not, though it is not conducive to success that all, or a majority of them,
should be prejudiced against the genuineness of the phenomena; nothing is more
inhibitive than systematic suspicion. Active hostility is most injurious.
Conversely, too strong desire for success hinders rather than aids the
phenomena, and, similarly, concentration of thought or marked divergence of
intention is objectionable. It is best for the sitters to converse in low tones
on indifferent matters, avoiding all controversy or discussion. It is easy to
habituate oneself to the necessary passivity without relaxing control and
The sitters must be patient; they must learn to wait and sometimes to pass whole
hours and whole séances without results. When phenomena begin, no exclamations
or interference should be made; let the phenomenon develop freely and reach its
completion. The best and most certain control is that which is given by the
phenomena themselves. Elementary or imperfect phenomena may easily be tricks;
complete phenomena are usually incapable of imitation.
Some instances will make my meaning clear.
If telekinesis is under scrutiny a small displacement of some object near the
medium and within his reach will always be liable to be thought fraudulent,
however close the control; but a great displacement, as of a table some yards
away from the medium, or the transference of a chair (well out of reach) on to a
table over the heads of the sitters, is obviously impossible to reproduce by any
If ectoplasm is looked for, it is possible to attribute formless ectoplasm to
regurgitation or any other fraudulent means, but when it assumes the form of a
living hand, or face, or - still more unmistakable - a complete apparition, the
hypothesis of fraud is absolutely eliminated if the medium is so held as to be
incapable of playing the part of the apparition, and if no confederacy is
The major phenomena carry their own control, because they could only be
simulated by a confederate, and nothing is easier than to eliminate this kind of
My own procedure is quite simple. I neglect systematically all minor and
elementary phenomena, taking no notice of them. I do not waste time considering
whether these might possibly be produced fraudulently in spite of the control. I
take any elementary phenomenon that could be supposed to be fraudulently
produced as non-existent. I only attend to phenomena that it is impossible to
imitate by any trick whatsoever under the given conditions of control.
The experimenters must know how control should be applied. It must not be
supposed that this can be improvised or is obvious. For this reason those who
are unused to these investigations should allow themselves to be directed by one
who is experienced.
But students new to metapsychic experimentation have an unfortunate tendency to
take no account of the work done by their predecessors, and the consequences of
this mistake are deplorable.
In no other branch of science is this done. Everywhere and always, when new and
unknown facts are being examined, the man of science begins by studying the
subject up to date; if he decides to experiment, he undertakes a real
apprenticeship, guided by his predecessors.
In the upside down world of metapsychics the procedure is quite otherwise: men
begin to experiment without even wishing to know anything, of the matter. Not
only are they ignorant, sometimes totally ignorant, of the work of others, but
they begin by deliberately excluding that work. The inevitable results are
widely advertised failures or endless gropings. There is no mistake that novices
are not liable to; fortunately these mistakes mostly lead only to blank séances,
but I shall be surprised if some day they should not have much more serious
results to the health or even the life of a medium.
I will now deal with two important matters - the measures of control and frauds by
5. The Lighting of Séances
One of the great difficulties attending ectoplasmic manifestations arises, as is
well known, from the injurious action of light on the production of the
Light seems to act injuriously in two ways - (1) by disturbing the trance, (2)
by opposing the actual process of materialisation. On both counts, the brighter
the light, the more difficult it is to obtain the phenomena. This detrimental
action is most marked in the earlier phases of the phenomenon. When the
materialisation is organically complete and "skinned over" it stands light much
better than in the earlier stages of exteriorisation of the amorphous substance
and its passage into the organised state. Experimenters are therefore confronted
with an embarrassing dilemma. Either they must work in the dark or with so dim a
light as to make observation not fully satisfactory; or they insist on a strong
light, in which case the phenomena are much diminished or altogether absent. No
doubt, by much patience and training of the medium, it is possible to operate in
sufficient light. Madame Bisson has been able to do this with
Eva C. But as
regards causes, the intensity of light and the perfection of materialisation are
The detrimental action of light on ectoplasmic forms is not surprising. Light is
well known to be fatal to many micro-organisms, and seems even to hinder the
organisation of primordial forms of life. Germs in process of development are
usually shielded from its action more or less by the natural conditions. The
early stages of embryonic life take place in relative or complete darkness. One
of the functions of chlorophyll in vegetation seems to be the protection of
delicate tissues against light, and it is a common observation that vegetable
growth takes place mainly at night.
If light hinders the biologic process in the first stages of organic growth,
considering that this process is very slow, it is easy to conceive that it
should actually paralyse the same processes during materialisation, when the
rapidity of vital action is greatly accelerated. The human embryo, for instance,
requires weeks to be built up in the womb, shielded from light; in a séance a
quasi-human being or a human organ is completely formed in a few seconds.
This rapidity of the process must be taken into account in order to understand
the injurious action of light in materialisation séances. If light is adverse to
the normal phase of embryonic organisation, it may be expected to be a thousand
times more so when the duration of this phase is counted by seconds instead of
days, weeks, or months.
The injurious action of light, therefore, is only natural and logical.
How, then, are we to reconcile the just demands that we should have the use of
our two chief senses - sight and touch - for good observation, with the primary
necessity of experimenting without light? All attempts to solve this difficulty
have so far been failures. Red light was tried, by analogy with photography, but
this similarity does not obtain. Red light has been found as injurious to
materialisations as white; if it seems less so, that is only because it is
weaker; and if increased to equal white light it has the great disadvantage that
it deforms or alters our vision. Its only real advantage is that its use allows
of the camera being left open to receive the revelations of the magnesium
Endeavours have been made to filter the light by glasses of various colours; all
to no purpose. Latterly sulphide of zinc or calcium screens have been tried.
These radiate cold light and are less injurious, but their illumination is poor
unless they are very large. Also the intensity of their phosphorescence rapidly
diminishes. They are bright enough soon after being exposed to sunlight or
magnesium light, but they quickly weaken in a quarter of an hour and finally go
out. There is, it is true, a radio-active sulphide of zinc which keeps bright
for hours, but it is most probably as injurious as warm light.
Is the problem therefore insoluble? No; and a rational mode of lighting will no
doubt be discovered. Experience has shown that the least injurious is cold light
devoid of actinic rays. Moonlight realises this ideal, and excellent séances can
be obtained, as Crookes first observed and succeeded in getting, by this light.
Biologic light, as given by certain animals and plants, seems favourable, as I
explained in the Revue Metapsychique of March-April, 1922, and have since
verified. Unfortunately it is difficult to reduce this to practice. The cultures
of photogenic microbes are very unstable. Professor Raphael Dubois discovered in
1900 a bacillus, cultures of which last for a month, but he has been unable,
despite prolonged experiment, to recover this bacillus. Luminous insects have
been tried with success in some favoured countries (Brazil), and finally some
vegetable products might be usable. Meanwhile, till the ideal method is found,
we can use large screens of zinc sulphide, or hold séances by moonlight.
It is, I repeat, possible to hold séances by ordinary light sufficiently bright
to allow of good observations, though for this a preliminary training of the
medium is required. When no trained medium is available, a faint red light
controlled by a rheostat may be tried.
The light is kept low till trance is complete; the light may then be very slowly
increased up to sufficient visibility, but care must be taken not to direct the
light on the medium. Only reflected light should reach him, and the dorsal
region should always remain in shadow. If one must experiment in darkness, quite
adequate control can be maintained and give complete satisfaction.
6. The Control of Séances
Measures for control are devised to protect the experimenters from conjuring
tricks. The conditions for effective legerdemain are three:
1. Freedom for the conjurer to move about.
2. His own room or apparatus.
3. The presence of a confederate.
The two latter conditions are eliminated by the fact that the medium is working
with men of science in a laboratory or a reliable room.
Improvised trickery, by wires, etc., is difficult to hide, and even if
successful could give only very poor results. In any case, the medium should not
enter the séance-room except for the séance and with the experimenters. Control
of the medium's person is very easily effected when there is no reason to
apprehend the use of trick apparatus nor confederacy.
First of all the medium should be completely undressed and clothed in a garment
belonging to the experimenters, and previously searched by them. In my opinion
it is quite unnecessary that this garment should be tight-fitting; a warm pyjama
suit without pockets suffices. This should be put on in presence of two
experimenters at least.
In the séance-room the chief and essential control is that both the medium's
hands be held. I say both hands, not both wrists. And this for two
reasons: the fingers, if free, may make fraudulent movements, and, more
especially, the much-famed trick of the substitution of hands cannot be effected
when the medium is held by his fingers. A fraudulent medium can easily get his
right wrist taken for his left, and vice versa. However little the
attention of the controllers is alert, a right hand cannot be mistaken for a
left, nor the thumb for the little finger.
Holding the hands of the medium renders any important fraud impossible.
However trained to acrobatic feats or prestidigitation a medium may be supposed
to be, he can only produce elementary and negligible phenomena by using his head
or his feet. Nevertheless, it is always well to control the legs and feet. This
can generally be done without much difficulty. It will be remarked that I do not
speak of instrumental measures - a cage, ligatures, chains, seals, leaden or
other, bags and nets over the medium, electric wires, etc.
I think that all these should be rejected except in the cases of séances for
mere demonstration, like those of the International Metapsychic Institute with
Guzik. For experimentation I dispense with all these instrumental controls, for
(a) They cause the medium serious discomfort that may prevent or limit his
trance. From the emotional point of view they are depressing and unnerving;
suspicion thus emphasised tends to inhibit the delicate supernormal faculties.
(b) None of these methods, except lead-sealed ligatures or nets, gives real
security. (Certain conjurers can release themselves from the most careful
None is so good as simple holding of the hands.
 I think it unnecessary to allude to
rectal or vaginal examination, which are only exceptional precautions adapted to
very special cases.
7. Fraudulent Practices
We now come to the important question of mediumistic frauds, and it is
absolutely indispensable that experimenters should be well acquainted with this
Mediums may cheat in two ways - consciously and unconsciously.
The methods of control already described protect us from conscious fraud.
"Conscious fraud is outside science. It is generally easy to
detect, unless at a public performance, seen from a distance. A thorough search
before and after the séance, elimination of confederacy, with knowledge of
professional tricks, with close supervision of movements like legerdemain, are
sufficient. In simple cases - i.e., without apparatus - conscious fraud may be
difficult to distinguish from unconscious fraud."
I affirm that in my
experiments with Eva C., with Kluski, and with Jean Guzik, conscious fraud was
impossible and never occurred.
The question of unconscious fraud is more complicated, because its study
involves psychological factors. All students of metapsychics know what is meant
by unconscious fraud, but I must enter into some explanations for the benefit of
novices in investigation and those readers who know nothing of these matters.
To begin with, it may be said that unconscious fraud is not "fraud" at all. It
results from the automatism, which is the first phase and essential condition of
I will now give some short and elementary instances of unconscious fraud (the
term must be used for want of a better), which will elucidate the matter more
than any theoretical explanations.
At one of Kluski's séances in Warsaw the following little occurrence took place:
We had in use a red electric lamp, and usually the first, phenomenon was the
extinguishing of this lamp by telekinetic action on the switch. That evening the
action was delayed. One of the sitters, being impatient, addressed the power in
play, saying: "Put out the lamp." it still remained lighted. He repeated three
times: "Put out the lamp." At once the entranced medium got up, taking his two
controllers with him, who were surprised and interested. He went straight to the
lamp, turned the switch, and returned to his place with the satisfaction of a
This is typical of unconscious "fraud," for which no sensible person would blame
the medium; he was simply obeying the suggestion. The phenomenon not coming to
pass by abnormal means, he produced it normally. If, under analogous conditions,
the medium had displaced some object or raised a table with his feet, he would
have been equally morally innocent.
Ochorowicz reports another instance of the same kind:
"I have seen mediums knock on the wall with their hands, before witnesses, and
nevertheless maintain that 'the spirit' was rapping. A law student, who was a
medium of an elementary type, gave himself a box on the ear in full view of
everyone present, and was much frightened thereby. He was in variable trance,
and insisted that the spirit of Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, had done this!
"Such things are ludicrous, of course, but they are psychological facts which it
is necessary to know before studying the higher forms of mediumship."
Unconscious fraud is simply the result of the dissociation of the will and
consciousness of the medium in trance and the consequent automatism.
It is needless to remark that unconscious fraud may be complex and skilful; it
is well known how perfectly in somnabulism automatic acts may be executed. But
in the great majority of cases unconscious frauds are infantile.
Such frauds may originate in two ways, both of which should be known. They can
only occur under circumstances which it rests with the experimenters to avoid.
The originating causes are:
(a) The line of least resistance, and
(b) Untimely verbal or mental suggestion by the experimenters.
Fraud due to automatically following the line of least resistance is very easily
understood. As Ochorowicz has explained, the whole processes of exteriorisation,
the physiological dissociation between the organism and the externalised power,
are accompanied by pain and demand great expenditure of nervous energy.
"When the medium is exhausted or even careless - that is, without a special
effort of his somnambulic will - he will free his hand to trick and will make
the substitution as skilfully as possible, because it is much less fatiguing
and because he is allowed to do this. This is the unmoral and purely
physiological action of the medium's subconsciousness. Therefore it must be
understood once for all that in the absence of some special incitement, internal
or external, a medium will always cheat automatically."
This conclusion of Ochorowicz's is much exaggerated, but contains an element of
truth. When writing this he had in view Eusapia Palladino, with whom unconscious
trickery was very frequent, much more so than with other mediums.
The second cause of unconscious frauds is verbal or mental suggestion by the
sitters. I will once more quote Ochorowicz:
"When it is understood that the medium is but a mirror reflecting and directing
the nervous energies of the sitters to an ideo-plastic purpose, it will not be
found surprising that suggestion should play an important part ... With
controllers imbued with the notion of fraud ... the medium will be dominated by
the suggestion of fraud."
More than this: the medium will be tempted to enact the fraud of which an
experimenter may be thinking. Of this there are typical instances. The inference
is that during a séance mental suggestions of fraud should be taken into
Is it possible to avoid unconscious frauds? Certainly. It is not only possible,
but easy. All subconscious fraud needs one only condition - insufficient
control. When control is good, especially when both the medium's hands are
properly held, not only is there no such fraud, but there is no attempt at it.
It depends solely on the experimenters whether the medium does or does not trick
in this way. It must be expressly stated that unconscious fraud may be
stimulated if one of the two controllers of the hands relaxes his duty, whether
intentionally or not. Hence the inference, which is axiomatic for all who
understand these matters, when a medium tricks, the experimenters are
responsible. It should be obvious that it is quite puerile to demand
scientific probity from a medium, to whom scientific reasoning is usually quite
foreign, and who is, moreover, irresponsible by reason of trance.
From all this it follows that experimenters should be very cautious in alleging
or suspecting conscious fraud; but the levity with which accusations of this
kind are made passes all reasonable bounds. I do not cite known instances of
this, as I wish to abstain from all personal allusions; but this I will say -
that in metapsychics many observers reverse the first rule of justice and place
the burden of proof, not on the accuser, but on the accused. Ill-will and
ineptitude have free course, and an honest medium is disgraced without scruple
on the slightest suspicion. Mere suspicion stands in place of proof. "The medium
might possibly have tricked. It is not shown that he did not trick; therefore he
Nine-tenths of the accusations against mediums, made not only by opponents, but
by students themselves, involve this sophistry, and then they are astonished
that they find it difficult to get mediums!
I repeat, conscious fraud is always due to the negligence or incompetence of the
experimenters; and unconscious fraud is not "fraud" at all. On the other hand,
experimenters should be fully aware that the appearance of fraud is not a proof.
The entranced medium often makes reflex or associated movements synchronously
with the displacement of an object without contact. Novices may find these
slight synchronous movements suspicious; and similarly with all movements of the
medium's body and legs, often purposeless and no more important than the
unconscious movements in natural sleep.
Another fact that may give an appearance of fraud is the strange aspect of the
ectoplasmic substance. It may assume the likeness of more or less visible
filaments, giving the unaccustomed observer the impression of threads intended
to move an object fraudulently. At other times it assumes the appearance of
light woven stuff like muslin, and photography shows the web. This has often
been thought a proof of fraud in cases of quite genuine metapsychic phenomena.
It is a standing principle that a photograph can never, by itself, attest the
reality or the falsity of any phenomenon; it has no weight whatever apart from
the evidence of the conditions under which the negative was produced.
The illusion of fraud may also arise in another way.
Ectoplasmic organs are often flat, irregular, and incompletely formed. As I
shall show when dealing with defective materialisations, these imperfections not
only do not prove fraud, but attest the honesty of the medium. Paradoxically,
the reverse is also the case: the perfection of materialised organs may cause
the same illusion. Inexperienced observers see a perfectly formed and living
hand move some object; their first impression is naturally that it is the hand
of the medium.
Finally, students should be aware that authentic phenomena and subconscious
frauds may co-exist in the same séance. Verification of the latter in no way
proves the nullity of the former. For better or worse, it is not unusual to see
a séance begin with automatic and unconscious "fraudulent" movements by the
medium and progress to thoroughly genuine phenomena.
For this reason, Ochorowicz counselled that control should not be too strict at
the outset. Experimenting with Eusapia, it was agreed to take no notice of the
first phenomena produced; considering these as preliminary, it was settled that
no notice should be taken of them. It is easy to see the reason for this.
The first phase arises in psychological and muscular automatism. Consider, for
instance, a person endowed with moderate or undeveloped mediumistic powers, in
process of training. The first manifestations are always unconscious, automatic
movements - e.g., his hands, placed on the experimental table, give it movements
which he will categorically and in good faith declare he has not made.
Nevertheless, the visible contraction and swelling of the muscles show the
undeniable origin of the movements. But little by little, if the training is
continued, his mediumship will develop; externalisation will become possible,
and muscular automatism will give place to telekinesis.
Similarly, at a séance with a good medium, one may, and often does, observe a
regression to the earlier phases of mediumship, especially at the beginning of
the séance. At such a moment strict control, keeping arms and legs fixed as in a
vice, may prevent the normal development of phenomena by suppressing its initial
This is a very common mistake made by those who are unfamiliar with such
studies, and, unfortunately, by many who should be better informed. The error
consists in charging the medium with bad faith and suspecting the genuineness of
the phenomena by reason of the inhibitive effect of very strict control in many
cases. It is constantly said:
"No control = fine phenomena."
"Incomplete control = intermittent phenomena."
"Absolute control = no phenomena."
This is radically false; all real students have obtained magnificent phenomena
with perfect control.
But it should be thoroughly understood that this control should not be blind, or
identical in all cases and at all times. It must be adapted to circumstances,
flexible in its methods, and rational. Rigid control that takes no account of
the psychological and physiological modalities of mediumship is often
sterilising, not because it eliminates fraud, but because it suppresses the
When certain observers obtain nothing under an absolute control, it does not
follow that this is because control is perfect, but because it is unskilfully
As has already been stated, the first term in the problem of this kind of
experimentation is the creation of a favourable collective environment; the
second and third terms relate to fraud. The keys to success are, on the one
hand, to eliminate possible legerdemain, and, on the other hand, to take fair
account of automatisms, especially initial automatisms, and even at need to let
these latter have free course. All this, however, implies much skilful handling
and thorough knowledge in the management of mediums.
It is doubtless true that the possible, though infrequent, co-existence of pure
and adulterated phenomena gives opportunities for mockery to adversaries
ignorant of the subject; and the fact is, moreover, not of a nature to simplify
metapsychic studies. But though this co-existence is very important in practice,
it is without any theoretical value.
The end to be sought by observers is not to protect themselves with absolute
certainty at all times against any possible or conceivable fraud (this, though
desirable, is seldom feasible); it is to obtain phenomena so powerful and
complex that they carry their own proof and undeniable witness, under the given
conditions of control.
 Translator's Note (Stanley de Brath): Dr.
Geley has often explained to me, and I have seen for myself at the International
Metapsychic Institute, that the measures of control there practised are such as
to make fraud physically impossible for the major phenomena. For
instance, in procuring paraffin moulds of materialised hands, the point to be
guarded is the possibility of surreptitious introduction (however difficult) of
moulds already made. This was made physically impossible by the admixture of
cholesterin with the paraffin and chemical test of the moulds produced.
If experimenters waste time on poor or elementary phenomena, they will find the
greatest difficulty in getting a control that will satisfy them at all points.
If they are wise enough to consider elementary phenomena and such minor frauds
as they may suspect, both negligible; if they allow phenomena to develop without
checking them at the outset by untimely demands, they will certainly obtain
facts so various and important, also (sometimes) of such beauty, that their
conviction will be complete, unshakable, and conclusive.
The above article was taken from Gustave Geley's "Clairvoyance and
Materialisation: A Record of Experiments" (London: T. Fisher Unwin Limited,