Last Updated on : November 23, 2014

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Table Tappings

Not Spirit-Rappings

The Herald of the Kingdom and the Age to Come, 1852,

Vol. 2, page 67, Bro. John Thomas, Editor.




An esteemed correspondent from Cambridge, Ohio, says:

"There is a religious deception practiced in this country of which I had never heard till a few weeks ago. It is called 'Spiritual Rappings.' I suppose you will know more about the delusion than I can tell you. About a week or ten days since a few persons assembled at my employer's to perform the ceremony, in order to convince me, by occular demonstration, that 'the spirits' do answer by raps and movements of the article on which the necessary group of hands is placed. Accordingly four persons placed their hands on a small table, each one having their right hand above their neighbour's left; and care is necessary that the upper hand touch not the table. The question was then asked in the usual manner, 'If there be any spirit present in this room let them signify it by a rap.' This was replied to by a sort of rap or jerk of the table. I am satisfied, however, that the farce is worked by sleight of the hands on the top, and not by a spirit under the table. Being requested, I asked some questions. I first asked, if the spirit present were material or immaterial? If material, I wished the table to rise in one direction; if immaterial, in another. It accordingly rose in the immaterial direction. I then asked, if it were a something or a nothing? The table was raised, signifying that it was a something. I then asked, if it were a something, how many like it could sit upon the point of a needle? In answer to which the table was raised three times. I then requested it to make its appearance on the top of the table, if it were something? But nothing appeared, although many of the persons present were afraid they would see something. After those who could and did work the farce were done, my employer, myself, and other two, got our hands arranged upon the table according to rule; and as we were unbelievers in such nonsense, we had to hold our hands on for twenty minutes before asking a question. We kept them on about three quarters of an hour, during which time a great many questions were put; but the table would neither rap, rise, nor move for us, our hands being too honest! While those who could were working the farce, I asked, how long my brother Thomas had been dead? The table rose eight times. I then asked, how many years my brother William had been dead? Upon which it rose eleven times. This led me to remark, that it must surely be a lying spirit, for Thomas died in 1841, and William in 1835!"

Thus writes Mr. John Swan, a man of veracity, and a competent witness in a matter of fact. He does not believe in disembodied-soulism; and we suppose these table-tappings were played off as evidence in proof of its verity, and of the erroneousness of the doctrine which teaches immortality of the body to them only who are accounted worthy of the kingdom of God and the Age to Come, by a resurrection from the dead. Disembodied souls and table-legerdemain assort well together. The more ignorant the spectator of the testimony of God, the profounder will be his faith in such creations of the fleshly mind.

But granting, as a fact, that the table rose without any cunning or deceit on the part of the operators-that their hands were perfectly honest, which our friend rather doubts-how are its movements to be accounted for without recourse to superstition? Upon the same principle that a loadstone, or electro-magnet, lifts a piece of steel, or that the compass-needle is drawn to the north magnetic-pole of the earth. The sun, moon, and stars, are magnets. The earth also is a magnet, and every thing upon it, animate and inanimate, magnetic, naturally, or induced. Immensity is filled by spirit, which is all-pervading, and styled by philosophy, electricity, magnetism, and so-forth. Man is pre-eminently electrical; some men, however, more so than others. His electricity is generated mainly by the processes of digestion and respiration, which, from the nature of their substance accumulates intensely upon the brain and spinal column, which thus become magnetic by induction, and capable by the peculiarity of their organization of throwing off, by the system of efferent nerves, the electro-magnetism produced. The hands of four or more persons arranged on a table, form with the table an electro-magnetic chain or circle. They are then en rapport. The will and thoughts of the most powerful brain among them directs the mentality of the whole. They have strong faith, not in divine revelation, but confidence in the certain accomplishment of what they propose to do, because they have succeeded in the experiment frequently before. The divine teachings of the prophets are nothing to them, being ignorant of what they are. The spirit-answers to their questions by the bungling contrivance of electrical crackings, knockings, or thunderings, and table-liftings, or through clairvoyant seeings and speakings, are mere reflections of the foolishness indoctrinated into them by preachers, and teachers, and the trashy literature they are educated by. A question is put. The most active and powerful brain immediately conceives an answer. That conception flashes through the other brains in the electrical circle. They all will to knock or rap. The electrical fluid is thrown off intensely towards the table; and in leaving them, and meeting with the negatively excited table--excited by the hands upon it--a rap, or succession of cracks, is the result; as many as the positively excited brains guess will meet the question. Table-lifting is on the same principle as table-tapping, dependant on the will of the united brains. The hands become strongly attractive, and the table is moved any way the theory of the operators requires. It may not be possible to explain all the phenomena reported as proved facts by the laws of electro-magnetism, electricity, etc.; because all the laws, according to which this subtile, universal, and powerful fluid, by whatever name called, operates, are not known. Indeed, very few of them are known; for the science, or knowledge, of this great physical element of the universe is scarcely born.

In the case reported by Mr. Swan, the manipulators were immaterialists, or nothingarians. Had they believed that the nothings they call spirits were material or something, the taps would have been on the other side of the question. Their hands were no doubt honest, but the thinking of the fleshly tables of their hearts, was perverted by a mischievous and foolish theology. One anti-theologist in a circle would be enough to mar the experiment; for the circuit would be in an interrupted, and therefore, unworking condition. Hence the raps and liftings could not be manifested with him in the chain, or circle, willing against them as sheer nonsense, or slight of hand. We have seen many curious experiments in human electro-magnetism, biology, neurology, etc., several of which we have performed ourselves. They were all explicable, however, on electrical principles. The psychology of magnetism, that is magnetic soulology, exactly reflects the theology of the pulpits. It cannot rise above it; for the theology is the carnal mind's interpretation of divine and unseen things derived from its own propensities and imaginings. The two ologies stand or fall together. Neither of them speak in harmony with Moses and the Prophets. Hence all the spirits they start between them are lying spirits, and not to be believed, though occasionally they should happen to stumble upon the truth. The spirit of God always speaks in harmony with the written word, and says neither more nor less than is written there. Hence the absence of all necessity that he should speak any more at all till the Lord comes to utter his voice, and to send forth the Law from Zion, and the Word of Jehovah [Yahweh] from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:3).