The Ouija Board and Spirit Communication by Claude J Pernin 1915
See also Dangers of Spiritism & the Occult - 60 Books on CDrom and Spiritualism and the Cult of the Dead - 120 Books on DVDrom (Spiritism)
WORD comes from St. Louis that a certain “Patience Worth" has produced a small library of poems and plays, aggregating some thirty thousand words. We are assured by no less an authority than a former Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri, that these "are of excellent quality.” If we are to trust the St. Louis Times, “Patience Worth,” is “a mystic from spirit-land” who conveys her messages to the “earth plane” through the medium of the Ouija Board, operated by an estimable St. Louis lady. There is no need of suspecting conscious fraud on the part of the human factor in the phenomena. It may be readily admitted that some thirty thousand words have been registered and duly recorded during the past two years, and that these by reason of their external form may be styled by courtesy, “poems and plays.”
But we do seriously question their “excellent quality." The market value of good verse, not, to say poetry, is rather high, and a really “excellent” play is a gold mine to those who possess the acting rights. One who has waded through the endless pages of balderdash carefully collected by the Society for Psychical Research and published in their “Proceedings” may be pardoned for doubting the literary merit of any of these “communications from spirit-land.” Those which are not utterly incoherent or meaningless are banal generalities in colloquial diction inculcating kindness, helpfulness and a vague hope in a still more vague hereafter. In those infrequent cases where there is some display of “the form and pressure of high thought,” the result to a literary critic is disappointing. They suggest nothing so much as the outpouring of a shallow school girl in a moment of petty spiritual elation; there is the same cloying sweetness, the same sickly sentimentalism. When we are privileged to read a really meritorious sonnet or a clever bit of dramatic dialogue, the authentic and unaltered product of “Patience Worth" and the Ouija Board, we shall modify our judgment. When a single one of her numerous poetical outpourings passes the test of acceptance by a reputable magazine on its literary merits alone, we shall admit that there is something new in “spirit-messages.” But judging by past performances, we are compelled to doubt.
In its outward appearance, the Ouija is a very harmless toy. It may be purchased for a few dollars at almost any toy shop or department store. It consists, as many of our readers are doubtless aware, of a varnished board about the size of a desk blotter on which are painted the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, the ten digits and the words “Yes,” “No,” and “Goodby.” A small triangular table about the size of the extended hand, moves easily over the varnished surface on three legs padded with felt. It is necessary for the operator to lay the tips of the fingers gently on the top of this small table. Any question may then be put and the table will move over the smooth surface of the board indicating the successive letters which spell the answer. And there you are!
Three theories have been put forth to explain the phenomenon of an intelligent effect from a seemingly inadequate cause. The first of these is natural, the second and third are preternatural in the assigned causality. The first hypothesis, elaborated by the late F. W. H. Myers in the two large volumes of his posthumous and incompleted work “Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death,” is known as the Theory of Subliminal Consciousness. Mr. Myers, who was for some years the President of the Society for Psychical Research, devoted the greater part of his life to the scientific investigation of occult phenomena, patiently pursuing his labors, as he tells us, “Per incertam lunam, sub luce maligna.” According to this author, many of these strange phenomena are due to the intellectual and volitional activities functioning through speech organs, or nerve and muscle, but not rising to the supra-liminal consciousness of the agent. In other words, while the intellect understands and the will acts in accordance with that intelligence, the soul is not conscious of either willing or understanding.
Thus, let us say, the operator of the Ouija Board has mislaid an article of value. The board when questioned, declares the whereabouts of the missing object, and investigation shows the accuracy of the revelation. According to the theory of subliminal consciousness applied to this particular instance, the owner knew consciously at one time where the object was, but subsequently, as we should say, forgot it. According to this theory, however, nothing is ever forgotten; it merely sinks below the threshold of consciousness and gradually loses its power to arise at the bidding of the will. Moreover, we are to believe that there is no experience of sense, however slight; no thought, however fleeting; no passing remark, however unimportant; no phrase or sentence or paragraph, read and seemingly forgotten long ago, which does not pass into the subconscious repository of the soul, ready to be manifested at any time in the same subconscious plane. Thus it is easy to understand how one who had read a deal of poetry or frequented the drama might subconsciously reproduce through the Ouija Board stray fragments of poetic or dramatic form, fused, it may be, into new relations. The intellect subconsciously supplies the thought and language; the will subconsciously guides the table across the board; the operator may with perfect honesty disclaim any conscious agency in the result.
Such an explanation, if admissible, would, of course, place the marvels of the Ouija and its predecessor, the Planchette, within the sphere of purely natural phenomena. The reader may judge for himself whether it is consistent with the testimony of experience or the dictates of reason.
The agency of departed spirits, however, is the explanation of the Ouija Board and kindred phenomena, most commonly urged. From the days of the Fox sisters, in 1848, this belief has been accepted by thousands, and, in spite of countless instances of fraud and charlatanism, has risen to the dignity of a religious creed. The Ouija and Planchette, spirit lights, spirit photography, levitation and materialization, form an ascending scale of extraordinary phenomena upon which this belief is based. That these phenomena do occur, cannot well be doubted; that they are guided by an intelligent causality, seems to be beyond dispute; that this intelligence is extra-mundane, is at least a plausible hypothesis. Is that extra-mundane intelligence, the spirits of the departed?
Do they revisit thus the glimpses of the moon, to lead men on with more assured hope to the dawn beyond the night of death? Are their “intents wicked or charitable"?
The Fox Sisters
Here we are confronted by one of the most extraordinary, as it is one of the most significant facts of all the observed phenomena of the occult. These messages are, for the most part, of the most trivial, lying, contradictory or even blasphemous character! There is no more doubt of this circumstance than there is of the objective reality of the phenomena themselves. It may be verified alike from the admissions of sincere investigators and from the many volumes of the “Proceedings.” “If we are to learn anything of goodness and truth beyond the grave,” declares one disillusioned investigator, “it must be from other sources than the tramps and frauds and liars who frequent the tables of the séance.”
Now the messages of the Ouija are, as a rule, trivial, rather than evil in their purport. But we cannot accept the belief that souls detained in the cleansing fires of purgatory could engage in the Puck-like nonsense and silly revelations associated with the Ouija. Even more shocking would it be to assume that souls in the enjoyment of the vision of God, could stoop to the fooleries of locating a hidden bracelet, or revealing the love secrets of an embarrassed girl. we are forced then to the reluctant conclusion, that if these messages are from the souls of the departed, they are the voices of those who have “no inheritance in the Kingdom of ‘Christ and of God," whose end is destruction and whose hands drag down to hell.
Finally, for those who reject both of these explanations, there remains the only alternative of direct demonic origin. It is “Satan transforming himself into an angel of light”; the enemy of God and man in the harmless guise of an innocent parlor amusement. Such an explanation is at least in perfect accord with the history of the Old and New Testament and with the spirit of the Church praying for protection against the powers of hell “wandering through the world, seeking the destruction of souls.” If the Ouija Board is the least harmful of these means of destruction, may it not, by reason of its easy accessibility and seeming innocence, be one of the most insidious? It leads to more daring experiments in the dark ways of Spiritism; it appeals to the latent curiosity of all men to venture into strange paths; its final end is the substitution for that Faith which is “the evidence of things not seen,” the alluring evidence of sensible wonders. And the dark road of Spiritism leads in countless instances to infidelity, suicide or the madhouse.
CLAUDE J. PERNIN
Flesh doth fall unto naught, and yet that that settleth the tongue for to speak still remaineth. Then look ye! I be me, even as thou art thee. For what be me be the all of ye that be ye."—Patience Worth (Ouija Spirit)
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