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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866


Question 6


WHAT is the philosophy of spiritual possession?




SPIRITUAL possession is at once one of the most perplexing and apparently paradoxical spiritual problems which can be offered to human philosophy to solve. It has been vaguely stated by some spirit communications that “like attracts like,” and hence that the pure and virtuous cannot attract, and therefore cannot be possessed by the impure and unholy spirit. Again, it has been represented that, as the spirit medium, or the person capable of being possessed by spirits, becomes so by virtue of some specialty in the physique, the moral and intellectual status of the spiritual influence is not necessarily determined by that of the medium - it is simply, therefore, a question of whether the medium is susceptible in its physical structure of the influence of spirits, and, if so, the rest depends on the ability and will of the spirit to exercise control. It must have been remarked by those who have had much experience in the unhappy condition called “spiritual possession,” that its subjects are far more constantly found amongst young children, fair girls, and pure women, than amongst the impure and naturally vicious; also, that the exhibition of this calamitous state seldom takes place amongst Spiritualists, but rather in persons unacquainted with the subject of Spiritualism; and, again, that the line of demarcation between acknowledged lunacy and spiritual possession is exceedingly difficult to draw. To the experienced in such matters this fact seems to be obviously overlooked by the medical faculty generally.


In the first place, then, we would urge that lunacy is not always spirit possession, that the latter state exists alone, but can co-exist with lunacy. We believe that the influence of spirits upon the human mind is the normal and healthful relation between the two worlds; that the action of the spirit in the various phases of mediumship, and the possibility of a spirit’s possessing temporarily the organism of a medium for the purpose of temporary control is also legitimate, and, under proper conditions, healthful and beneficial, physically as well as spiritually; but, in the case of a spirit entering into the organism and wilfully maintaining possession of it, either against the



desire of the subject or for the expression of words or actions objectionable to that subject, is diabolical, and only takes place under conditions of mental or bodily disease, and in its results is always pernicious and highly to be deprecated.


In the first place, then, we claim that no spirit mediumship occurs so much in accordance with the mental as with physical states; hence, the finely strung nervous organisms of women are more favourable to the electrical conditions of spiritual control than those of men - while the very susceptible forms of the young and fragile, are still more liable to become subjects of magnetic influence. In the case of obsession, however, we would urge that there are two specialities to be observed, first, the nature of the operating spirit, next that of the subject.


I affirm that the spirit, in such instances, is invariably evil; and the organism of the subject invariably diseased, or, at least, mentally or physically unbalanced. Carefully investigate the subjects of possession, and you will find it inevitable that no such condition can occur until a decided lack of balance might be noticed in the organism, in some instances almost amounting to a tendency to insanity. Insanity and spiritual possession are constantly mistaken for each other. In your lunatic asylums are unbalanced minds, as you tern them, who are absolutely possessed by restless, ill­conditioned, unhappy, and depraved human spirits, and these exhibit themselves through the disturbed mind or weak body in what the physician calls insanity, but the psychologist determines to be the action of spiritual possession.


Nevertheless, I affirm, without being in this place or at this time able to prove my affirmation, that no such possession ever takes place in a subject who is not, previous to that possession, partly unbalanced, mentally or bodily. And thus it is that we find the pure, fair, and innocent often become subjects of this fearful calamity. You may ask wherefore such persons should be more subject to this evil than those whose tendencies are in the direction of vice? I answer you that the bad man is often as strong as the bad spirit; and it needs, in the philosophy of spiritual control, that the subject shall be weaker than the operator. Where the power is equal, the spirit may tempt - may add by his influence to the tendencies of the bad man, but he does not control them. You have noticed, in the modern spiritual movement, that woman is far more susceptible to spiritual influence than man. If your experience extends to ancient history, you will find that the sybil and the prophetess, though rarely the subject of historical mention, yet when described (as in the case of the Cumean sybil, graphically depicted by Virgil) give evidences of a condition strongly analogous to the highly strung, susceptible, and nervous sensitives who are known amongst you to­day as spirit-mediums. Were the true philosophy of psychology and spirit-control clearly investigated as a science, it would be found that the ancient sybil and modern medium are of the female sex, from specialities of organism and susceptibility of mental and magnetic control, arising, not from mental imbecility, but physical susceptibility; and, I repeat, it is from these causes that women and fragile persons generally, irrespective of their mental and moral states, are more commonly the subjects of spiritual possession than men. With reference to the purpose and nature of the spirit who operates in this matter, I cannot modify my opinion that it is invariably evil - evil alike in object, tendency, and result. A good and wise spirit would realise the abnormal and injurious tendency of the control too thoroughly to practise it; hence the permanent possession a human organism by a good spirit is unknown. As the spirit is, therefore, invariably mischievous and evil in purpose, it will be understood



that he realises some gratification from his pernicious act - gratification of a similar character, in fact, to that of ill-disposed and mischievous minds who love to exercise rule over others on earth, or delight in tormenting those whom they can influence. There are myriads of unhappy spirits, earth-bound, as it were, by their attractions to this world, who love to hover around the scene of their vanished affections, and who find gratification in acting out evil and malicious propensities again, through the susceptibility of their suffering victims. In a word, there is, unhappily, far too much reason to understand why the demons whom human societies too abundantly manufacture in their city streets should, when landed on the shores of spirit-land, long to return to the more congenial atmosphere of their earthly crimes, and gladly avail themselves of some weak or susceptible human organism to do so, for us to marvel at the action of the spirit. The greatest difficulty in the solution of the whole problem is the proper mode of cure for such cases; and in attempting to deal with this, I must again reiterate my affirmation that every subject of spiritual possession will be found physically weak, if not actually diseased, and sufficiently mentally unbalanced to become a subject for the control of the spirit. I believe the first efforts of the good physician, in such cases, should be directed invariably to the physique of his subject. As much and as constant exercise as the constitution can bear is the first prescription; legislation for the whole system - applied, of course, to special manifestation of disease, another; careful avoidance, either of undue stimulus or abstinence in diet, most essential; the force supplied by stimulant in diet is always unsafe in cases of spiritual possession, because it is far too satisfactory to the spirit to be endured for a moment, whilst the weakness induced by fasting is equally injudicious, as tending to lower the system, and therefore promote the magnetic control of the spirit.


Bathing is one of the most special and invaluable aids to the cure of obsession, for magnetic and physiological reasons, which can not at present be rendered. The best and most important mode of treatment is psychological; and in this respect infinite judgment, adapting itself to special cases, is demanded in the physician. To speak only in generalities, I would urge that the first aim of the operator shall be to distract the mind from all spiritualistic subjects, and all magnetic emotions; let the whole subject and its possibilities be studiously banished from the mind of the subject, and totally different organs than those unduly exercised be called into play. Let music, exercise, bathing, diet, strong will, healthful magnetism, pure air, constant occupation in light, trifling and interesting duties, be some of the medicaments employed; and, under the action of the paroxysms, strong, pure, and healthful magnetism be applied in mesmeric passes, accompanied by a strong will and determined purpose, and the treatment will surely be ultimately successful. I consider proper and well assimilated magnetism, administered in mesmeric passes, as a cure which could ACT ALONE, and supersede all others; but as this agent requires careful adaptation and special conditions, both in subject and operator, I must commend the use of treatment, which would be effective without it.


Question 7 - March 19th, 1866