The family ghost, whom we generally find in the stock stories of the supernatural as an appanage of the feudal castle, may be either a thought-form or an unusually vivid impression in the astral light, or again he may really be an earth-bound ancestor still haunting the scenes in which his thoughts and hopes centred during life.
Another class of hauntings which take the form of bell-ringing, stone-throwing, or the breaking of crockery, has already been referred to, and is almost invariably the work of elemental forces, either set blindly in motion by the clumsy efforts of an ignorant person trying to attract the attention of his surviving friends, or intentionally employed by some childishly mischievous nature-spirit.
The nature-spirits are also responsible for whatever of truth there may be in Fairies, all the strange fairy stories which are so common in certain parts of the country.
Sometimes a temporary accession of clairvoyance, which is by no means uncommon among the inhabitants of lonely mountainous regions, enables some belated wayfarer to watch their joyous gambols.
Sometimes strange tricks are played upon some terrified victim, and a glamour is cast over him, making him, for example, see houses and people where he knows none really exist. And this is frequently no mere momentary delusion, for a man will sometimes go through quite a long series of imaginary but most striking adventures, and then suddenly find that all his brilliant surroundings have vanished in a moment, leaving him standing in some lonely valley or on some wind-swept plain.
On the other hand, it is by no means safe to accept as founded on fact all the popular legends on the subject, for the grossest superstition is often mingled with the theories of the peasantry about these beings, as was shown by a recent terrible murder case in Ireland.
To the same entities must be attributed a large portion of what are called physical phenomena at spiritualistic séances. Indeed, many a séance has been given entirely by these mischievous creatures. And such a performance might easily include many very striking items, such as the answering of questions and delivery of pretended messages by raps or tilts, the exhibition of “spirit lights,” the apport of objects from a distance, the reading of thoughts which were in the mind of any person present, the precipitation of writings or drawings, and even materializations.
In fact, the nature-spirits alone, if any of them happened to be disposed to take the trouble, could give a séance equal to the most wonderful of which we read; for though there may be certain phenomena which they would not find it easy to reproduce, their marvelous power of glamour would enable them without difficulty to persuade the entire circle that these phenomena also had duly occurred, unless, indeed, there were present a trained observer who understood their arts and knew how to defeat them.
As a general rule, whenever silly tricks or practical jokes are played at a séance, we may infer the presence either of low-class nature-spirits, or of human beings who were of a sufficiently degraded type to find pleasure in such idiotic performances during life.
As to the entities who may “communicate” at a séance, or may obsess and speak through an entranced medium, their name is simply legion. A manifesting “spirit” may be exactly what it professes to be, but on the whole the probabilities are that it is nothing of the kind; and for the ordinary sitter there is absolutely no means of distinguishing the true from the false, since the extent to which a being having all the resources of the astral plane at his command can delude a person on the physical plane is so great that no reliance can be placed even on what seems the most convincing proof.
If something manifests which announces itself as a man’s long-lost brother, he can have no certainty that its claim is a just one; if it tells him of some fact known only to that brother and to himself, he remains unconvinced, for he knows that it might easily have read the information from his own mind, or from his surroundings in the astral light; even if it goes still further and tells him something connected with his brother, of which he himself is unaware, but which he afterwards verifies, he still realizes that even this may have been read from the astral record, or that what he sees before him may be only the shade of his brother, and so possess his memory without in any way being himself.
It is not for one moment denied that important communications have sometimes been made at séances by entities who in such cases have been precisely what they said they were; all that is claimed is that it is quite impossible for the ordinary person who visits a séance ever to be certain that he is not being cruelly deceived in one or other of half a dozen different ways.
There have been a few cases in which members of the lodge of occultists referred to above as originating the spiritualistic movement have themselves given, through a medium, a series of valuable teachings on deeply interesting subjects, but this has invariably been at strictly private family séances, not at public performances for which money has been paid.
– From: The Astral Plane by C. W. Leadbeater | Courtesy of Project Gutenberg