[Editorial Note: This "Report" is interesting both as an account of "mediumship," that is, the relationship(s) between the medium and controlling spirit(s), and of popular ideas of race. The final questions the panel of "scientific gentlemen" posed dealt with the equality of the negro to the white. Part of the answer is particularly intriguing, the distinction made between the English and the Anglo-Saxon. The latter is a reference to the American "race" which has "assimilated" traits from the English and several other "races." The negro, after a similar process of assimilation, was, the Spirits concluded, the potential equal of the white.
A Philosophical Investigation of the Nature of Mediumship.
P. 21: The following is a report of a session held in New York, January, 1857, by some fifteen scientific gentlemen, for the purpose of investigating certain philosophical questions connected with the Spritual phenomena.
Q. - Can the Spirits tell us what peculiar organization, or what peculiarity of organism, is most susceptible to mediatorial influence - referring to the different kinds of mediums with which we are acquainted?
A. - . . . [p. 22] This is the generalizing view of mediumship. Everything which leads to the comprehension of higher principles as a manifestation of goodness and perfection is a medium, a mediatorial thing, a mediatorial agent. Christ, as the manifestation of goodness and perfection in man, is called the Mediator. Why? Because he is practically the manifestation of power and goodness which leads to aspiration; therefore he is a medium. All men are like him in proportion as their capacities and powers are unfolded, simplified and vivified. In the manifestations of modern Spiritualism, mediums are controlled, possessed, influenced; physical contortions occur, representing intelligence through certain individualities. These are always in accordance with their predelictions or capapcities - mediumship being simply the means of obtaining knowledge of certain things. The physical conditions requisite in mediums are as varied as the mediums themselves. They are classified, however, into distinct departments. Some are rapping, some writing, some speaking, some trance, and others clairvoyant. But the distinctive or peculiar qualities of each class, or distinct species of mediums, seems to be the import of the question. Mediums in correspondence with the elements of mind or matter, are susceptible of having thoughts and ideas infused into the brain, the physical system, not through the organs of the soul, but through the physical, electrical influences that surround them. Manifestations by rapping come through the brain, as well as those of speaking or writing, but the power is manifested through the Od Force of Baron von Reichenbach, or the back-brain power of Dr. Dods; but there is something behind them [p. 23] which propels them.1 There is a force which Spirits use in the concentration of their power upon the mind; this force possesses qualities and capacities which allow the Spirits to use their forces in the concentrated form of raps. . . .the human soul is like the germ of a flower; plant it in the form, and under favorable circumstances it outworks those powers and properties it contains in itself, but it must be strengthened by Spirit-life. This is our theory; you may term it truth if you desire.
P. 24: Q. - Is it possible for a Spirit to communicate with as much ease through a medium possessing views distinctly different from herself?
A. - Certainly not; because an opposition is at once created. No Spirit can present through any medium communications, thoughts, ideas, which that medium's organization has not the capacity to comprehend. The idea itself may never have entered the mind of the medium, but the capacity must be there.
. . . .
P. 25 Q. - What is the fact in regard to the condition of this medium [Cora Hatch] at the present time?
A. - The combined influences of individuals who once inhabited forms like your own, are now controlling the organism or brain of this medium. She has no consciousness of the words or ideas. That it is not an ecstastic state, can be shown by examination of the circulation, which remains in a normal condition. No particular organ or organs are influenced, to the neglect of the others, but we influence them all in proportion to the demand you make upon us. We have developed her organism, and that without the external knowledge which persons usually refer to in the development of their brain, and we leave you to judge of the sincerity of the medium, and the truth of our assertion.
Q. - Does the quality of the communication ever exceed the combined qualities of the medium and the persons present?
A. - The quality of the communication never exceeds the ca-[p. 26]pacity of the medium; it may greatly exceed the usual manifestations of that capacity.
Q. - Will you tell us where and in what state or condition the spirit of this organism is now, while you have control of the medium?
A. - The Spirit of the medium is active, not within the physical form except as her Spirit or the qualities of her Spirit keep up the natural functions of the physical system. The thoughts or action of her Spirit is in another direction, probably with the friends to whom she is attached; the action of her mind is with them, and she realizes the consciousness of being associated with them. We operate upon her brain, that being a machine through which the Spirit manifests its desires and capacities. We operate upon that machine to communicate ideas which her mind may not have received; and her relative condition to us is that of a person dreaming, with the exception of her Spirit is conscious, but we control her physical form, instead of its being in repose.
. . . .
P. 29: Q. - Is a negro a human being? Does difference in color constitute all the difference from the whites? Do negroes possess all the powers and faculties of a human being?
A. - According to our view, he is a human being, else he could not be cultivated through the influence of the white man.
Q. - Is the virtue, the intellect of the black man equal to that of the white man? Suppose a hundred negro children at one month old and a hundred white children at the same age, should be brought up to the age of twenty one under the same surrounding influences, would they at that time be equal?
A. - Probably in another generation the circumstances of birth, of climate, of all other influences, will have as much influence on the negro as the Anglo-Saxon. But that has nothing to do with the inherent principles of the soul or its capacities. We know that the French, English and other nations have not the capacities developed in the Anglo-Saxon - that this race is considered to be in advance of all others. The African exists as a distinct type in itself, but it is of the human race because it is susceptible of human improvement - not to as great an extent as the white, but in embryo. The African may possess not the same capacities, but the same principles of capacities, but they are yet to be unfolded through the assimilation of more perfect organisms.