From Shadowland or Light From the Other Side - Elisabeth d'Esperance


IN GLANCING over the work of experiment and investigation of the past quarter of a century, I can see into what errors one has unconsciously fallen; errors of judgment in a great measure, but for the most part errors caused by a blameworthy ignorance of the simplest natural laws.

The fact that if we could produce a certain result we must supply materials possessing the necessary qualifications, has been too much overlooked, or perhaps we have taken it too much for granted that those who professed an interest in the subject were able to supply them. It is only after severe lessons, learned by dint of much suffering, that the knowledge has been forced on us. It would be as useless to supply a brickmaker with sand and water expecting him to make bricks, that would stand the test of wear, as to form a circle from the majority of so-called enquirers and expect the spirits to produce manifestations that are beyond all doubt. Like the brickmaker they do what they can with the materials at their disposal, and if the results are of questionable quality it is not their fault, but that of the persons who supplied the material.

Most persons turning, their attention to studies of this nature, have presumably a comfortable conviction that they are specially fitted for understanding and solving the problems pertaining to them, and they conduct their investigation in various fashions. As a rule their manner of investigation gives the clue to the nature of the material they place at the disposal of the unseen workers.

I have come in contact with several classes of investigators, working with a view to establishing some pet 'theory or other of their own. Those phenomena which would give color to, or fall in with, their preconceived theories, are eagerly seized upon to the disregard of all others that have no such bearing, or are contradictory to their ideas. These investigators are generally satisfied with theory, their imagination supplying all the rest. Hence the origin of Spooks", "Shells", "Thoughtforms," "Elementary Spirits" and similar absurdities. But even these abortive productions, of a too superficial investigation are to be preferred to the conclusions arrived at by another class of wise or scientific researchers, who begin their enquiry with the assumption that all persons except themselves are dishonest, all opinions except their own biased or without legitimate foundation, all observation except their own unreliable, all recorded phenomena unfounded unless they have witnessed them; all phenomena obtained under other conditions than those laid down themselves unworthy of credence.

Their verdict shortly summed up amounts to this, "We have found fraud, consequently there is no truth," or in other words they might say; "Our minds can understand fraud but are unable to comprehend truth, consequently it does not exist." Reasoning in the same logical manner one might say, a false coin is a sufficient evidence to prove that there are no real ones. Other minds might argue: "if there were no true coins there would be no false ones," but not so these wise men.

There is another class, but I will do my countrymen the justice of saying I have not found any among them. These act on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief. Pretending the most fervent interest in spiritualism, they make the acquaintance of persons having the reputation of being mediums, beg as for their very lives for the privilege of assisting at a seance for experiment, simulate the warmest sympathy and friendliest feelings towards the medium, and when finally they are permitted to join the circle, take with them a camera or a member of the secret police to assist in unmasking the deception they believe to be practiced.

An investigator of this class urged on by the clergy does not disdain to spy on a medium's privacy through holes which he has bored in the door or wall of his room. Or after cordially inviting a medium to pay a friendly visit to his home, he obtains false keys or picks the lock of the medium's trunk in order to examine its contents. He will induce a medium, by dint of promises and persuasion, to give a seance to a few intimate friends, and then has him or her—frequently the latter—stripped to the skin to satisfy himself that he or she does not carry on their persons, the means wherewith to deceive the innocent and unsuspecting (?) investigator. When he is satisfied on this point he ties the medium up with ropes, fastens him with screws or bolts to the wall or floor, and then awaits with complacent self-satisfaction spiritual manifestations.

My blood boils within me when I hear of sensitive mediums, frequently young girls or ladies, being subjected to the indignities and insults of these "investigators," who on the first intimation of something which to their limited understanding appears suspicious, are eager to denounce the unfortunate culprit and spread the damning news abroad, gleefully boasting of their skill as detectives. Knowing what I know—and that is little enough of the conditions necessary for successful manifestations, I cannot but wonder greatly that success ever attends on such experiments. When the material supplied by the investigators is chiefly made up of suspicion, intrigue, and doubt, supplemented in most cases by the noxious fumes of alcohol and nicotine, what wonder that the results produced are such as bring disgrace and shame on the name of the truths they profess to advocate, and ruin to the medium, who is the victim on whom the onus of the scandal is laid?

I have heard it said that there are but few good mediums left to work for the cause. I am not surprised. They have suffered so much at the hands of ignorant investigators, who pride themselves on their special qualifications as enquirers, that they have withdrawn from the work heartsick and discouraged, weary to death of even the very name of the truths for which they have given the best they had—time, health, reputation.

But thank God there is a brighter side. There are some good men and true, men on whom the scientific and detective investigator looks with contemptuous pity; men honest in themselves, their thoughts, and actions, who will not degrade either themselves or their neighbor by harboring a doubt of his honesty, who prefer to believe every man innocent of evil till he is proved guilty. The innate perception of the mysterious power that rules the universe gives such a man, in this enquiry, a point of observation which others could not, by aid of all the earthly sciences, ever hope to attain. They may come to believe in a spiritual existence; he knows it.

He may not he learned in the classics, he may not know Greek from Latin, but compared with them he is as a skylark to a mole. While these whose interests are of the earthly pursue their occupation of pulverizing and throwing up little mounds of the soil in which they find their sustenance, blind to everything on the earth above them, the bird though making his home low down on its surface can mount on light wings into the world of air and sunshine, with his joyful song of praise. Of him and such as he were the words spoken: "The pure in heart shall see God;" for so it is, that only they who have clean minds, clean bodies, and a sincere desire for light" will find the truth. The man whose spirit is held in the bondage of his appetite, who clouds his brain and destroys his nerves by the poison of nicotine, or unduly excites them by the incense of wine, is no fit candidate for communion with those passed on to the world of spirit. Nor is he, who is urged on merely by the desire to substantiate some pet idea or vague dream, to establish a theory, or to aggrandize his reputation as a man "of learning, or as a discoverer, any better fitted for the work. Unless a purer and better motive than these leads him on, let him not embark on the quest for he will fail. And he who seeks only to discover deceit in others, thereby betraying the falseness in himself, will find that which he seeks—falsehood; the truth he will never discover.

But to you, who are weary of life, its never ending toils, its pains, its sorrow, to you whose heart craves for certainty, to you whose dear ones have passed away leaving you despairing and heartsick, to you who hunger and thirst for proofs of a life beyond; to you I say, clean your minds from prejudice, your brain from poison, your bodies from impurities of disease wrought by the indulgence of the appetite, and set out on the search, for be assured you will find what you seek. The ground whereon you would tread is Holy; profane it not with feet soiled with the mire of suspicion, nor regard the instrument by which you must approach it as unworthy of trust. Come, honestly desiring to learn, not of the faults, failings, and shortcomings of others, but humbly seeking the truth, and you will not seek in vain; but if it be not sought with prayerful minds and earnest desire for help and enlightenment then do not waste time on the search.

"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst" said the Great Teacher. Even so in these matters. Where all are met together, having duly fitted themselves for the work, where no element of suspicion is introduced, where medium and circle are seated in the presence of each other, animated by the same desire for truth; there will the manifestations be purer and better than in the old days of cabinets, cages, bonds and tests, that defeated their own purpose.

I have devoted much space to the misunderstandings, mishaps, failures, and the resulting sickness and misery attending many of the investigations. My object in giving these dark shades of the picture, when I had many brighter episodes to select from, is because I think there are more valuable lessons taught by these failures than the most brilliant successes.

There is only one more serious misfortune, at least very serious to me, which stands prominently forward and to which I have not referred. This occurred in 1893 in Helsingfors and caused my hair to turn white and grey during nearly two years of indisposition, when it all came out and with returning health grew again quite dark as it was before the accident. A full description of this remarkable seance may be had from Oswald Mutze, Leipzig, entitled "Ein seltsames and belehrendes Phanomen im Gebiete der Materialisation von Alexander N. Aksakow." (A remarkable and instructive phenomenon in materialisation.) This has also been translated into French and can be had from P. G. Leymarie, Rue du Sommerard 12, Paris.

I have tried to take you my readers into my confidence and give you the result of my investigation of this strange subject. I have told you candidly my troubles during my childhood and youth as to the mysterious appearance of the "shadow-people" and how the mists of doubt were dispersed when I thought I understood what they were.

Then came our various experiments and the terrible troubles that followed some of them, so serious indeed that on three occasions my life seemed to hang as on a thread.

I have told you what in most cases others have written or published as to the phenomena, so that I do not lay claim to the statements as being entirely my own. I have used them in hopes that my experiences may be all the more easily understood, that my doubts and difficulties whilst treading new paths may be comprehended and appreciated.

I have tried to give you, as it were, an insight into my thoughts, feelings and sensations at the time; if I could have left out a description of the phenomena it is possible I would have done so, but without some record of them my doubts and perplexities would have been incomprehensible.

Much—perhaps too much—has been already written of these things and they may in consequence have fallen into disrepute. My object has not been so much to record phenomena as to use them to show what in my case,—in my search for truth— has resulted from them.

I have used the word "medium" in the popular sense as ordinarily understood. This I have done in order that you might all the easier follow me. Now I come to the point where I wish to disclaim the right to that title. If you, my reader, have carefully followed me I think you will have come to the same conclusion as I have done on this point.

Seeing that the manifestations in all cases were in accordance with what the sitters were, it is I think self-evident that the latter were the medium and I only a part.

When the circle was composed of children the phenomena were of a childish character. When scientists were present the manifestations were of a scientific description. When ultimately I threw aside the old idea of mediums and mediumship, and determined to be no longer isolated from the rest and deprived of the use of one of my senses, I consider I took the place I ought to have occupied from the first. Even in the taking of the photographs we incessantly changed places, and had no cabinet or separate medium. We were all the medium.

In a circle of, say twenty, it is utterly absurd to credit one with the manifestations that are the product of other nineteen. When the phenomena depend on twenty why should one of the number be praised or blamed for what is produced through the whole of them?

So long as one of the circle was isolated from the rest, it was more or less assumed that the one thus set apart was responsible for what took place and the others were there to look on and criticize.

In any case what I wish most emphatically to disclaim is that I have been the "medium" when eleven or nineteen other persons were present. It may be right to credit me with a twelfth or twentieth part but not more unless some of the others were unsuitable and a greater share of the responsibility thereby fell on one or more of the other members of the circle.

If these conclusions—the result of many years work and hitter experience—are accepted and followed by—investigators and circle-holders in the future, then it is well that we have tried different methods and found which were faulty. I do not however think we have yet found or tried the best method of pursuing this investigation. Others who take up the work where I have laid it down may find safer and better roads than I have trodden There is so much to learn, so much to understand. Even at the best we but "See through a glass darkly" and grope our way in the darkness. Still, steering our course by the light which shines fitfully through the shadows we may yet reach that fuller light in which "We may know even as we also are known."

Now my task is done. They who come after me may perchance suffer as I have suffered, through ignorance of God's laws. Yet the world is wiser than it was, and it may be that they who take up the work in the next generation will not have to fight, as I did, the narrow bigotry and harsh judgments of the "unco' guid." Still I will not wish them too smooth a road, for it seems to me that, looking backward, I find the troubles that have attended my search—and they have been many—sink into insignificance. Nor do I regret them. They have been the monitors warning me that I had wandered from the right road, and though I knew it not, at the time, were my best friends. Now at last I have found what I have been seeking through these long years; years of hard work interspersed with sunshine and storms, with pleasure and pain; now I can cry aloud in jubilant voice to all who will hear: "I have found the truth—and the same great prize may be yours too, if you will seek it honestly, earnestly, humbly, diligently."

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