THE TABLE-TURNING DELUSION Prof Faraday

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THE TABLE-TURNING DELUSION Prof Faraday

Post by Admin on Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:24 pm

NEW-HAMPSHIRE JOURNAL OF MEDICINE.
EDITED BY GEORGE H. HUBBARD, M. D.
VOLUME IV.- V
JANUARY AND DECEMBER, 1854. , •
CONCORD, N. H. PUBLISHED BY G. PARKER LYON. 1854.
THE TABLE-TURNING DELUSION.

THE following is from Professor Faraday, of the Royal Institution :
To the Editor of the London Times : "
SIR : — I have recently been engaged in the investigation of table-turning.
I should be sorry that you should suppose I thought this necessary on
my own account, for my conclusion respecting its nature was soon arrived at,
and is not changed but I have been so often misquoted, and applications to
me for an opinion are so numerous, that I hoped, if I enabled myself by
experiment to give a strong one, you would consent to convey it to all persons
interested in the matter. The effect produced by the table-turners has been referred to electricity, to magnetism, to attraction, to some unknown or hitherto unrecognized physical power able to affect inanimate bodies, —
to the revolution of the earth, and even to diabolical or supernatural
agency. The natural philosopher can investigate all these supposed causes
but the last; that must, to him, be too much connected with credulity or
superstition to require any attention on his part. "
Believing that the first cause assigned — namely, a quasi involuntary
muscular action (for the effect is with many subject to the wish or will) —
was the true cause, the first point was to prevent the mind of the turner
having an undue influence over the effects produced in relation to the nature
of the substances employed. A bundle of plates consisting of sand-paper,
mill-board, glue, glass, plastic, clay, tinfoil, card-board, gutta percha, vulcanized
caoutchouc, wood, and resinous cement, was therefore made up and tied
together, and being placed upon a table under the hand of a turner, did not prevent
the transmission of the power; the table turned or moved exactly as if the
bundle had been away, to the full satisfaction of all present. The experiment
was repeated, with various substances and persons, and at various
times with constant success and henceforth no objection could be taken to
the use of these substances in the construction of apparatus. The next point
was to determine the place and source of motion i. e., whether the table
moved the hand, or the hand moved the table ; and for this purpose indicators
were constructed. One of these consisted of a light lever, having its fulcrum on the table, its short arm attached to a pin fixed on a card-board, which
could slip on the surface of the table, and its long arm projecting as an index
of motion. It is evident that if the experimenter willed the table to
move toward the left, and it did so move before the hands, placed at the time
on the card-board, then the index would move to the left also, the fulcrum
going with the table. If the hands involuntarily moved towards the left
without the table, the index would go towards the right and if neither table
nor hands moved, the index would itself remain immovable. The result was
that when the parties saw the index it remained very steady when it was
hidden from them, or they looked away from it, it wavered about, though
they believed that they always pressed directly downwards and when the
table did not move, there was still a resultant of hand force in the direction
in which it was wished the table should move, which, however, was exercised
quite unwittingly by the party operating. This resultant it is, which, in the
course of the waiting time, while the fingers and hands become stiff, numb,
and insensible by continued pressure, grows up to an amount sufficient to
move the table or the substances pressed upon. But the most valuable effect
of this test-apparatus (which was afterwards made more perfect and independent
of the table,) is the corrective power it possesses over the mind of the
table-tamer. As soon as the index is placed before the most earnest, and
they perceive — as in my presence they have always done — that it tells truly
whether they are pressing downwards only or obliquely, then all effects of
table-turning cease, even though the parties persevere, ernestly desiring motion,
till they become weary and worn out. No prompting or checking of"
the hands is needed — the power is gone ; and this only because the parties
are made conscious of what they are really doing mechanically, and so are
unable unwittingly to deceive themselves. I know that some may say that
it is the card-board next the fingers which moves first, and that it both drags
the table and also the table-turner with it. All I have to reply is, that the
card-board may in practice be reduced to a thin sheet of paper weighing only
a few grains, or to a piece of goldbeaters' skin, or even the end of the lever,
and (in principle,) to the very cuticle of the fingers itself. Then the results
that follow are too absurd to be admitted the table becomes an incumbrance,
and a person holding out the fingers in the air, either naked or tipped with
goldbeaters' skin or card-board ought to be drawn about the room, etc. ; but
I refrain from considering imaginary yet consequent results which have nothing
philosophical or real in them. I have been happy thus far in meeting
with the most honorable and candid though most sanguine persons, and I
believe the mental check which I propose will be available in the hands of all
who desire truly to investigate the philosophy of the subject, and, being content
to resign expectation, wish only to be led by the facts and the truth of
nature. As I am unable, even at present, to answer all the letters that come
to me regarding this matter, perhaps you will allow me to prevent any increase
by saying that my apparatus may be seen at the shop of the philosophical
instrument maker — Newman, 122 Regent-street."
Permit me to say, before concluding, that I have been greatly startled by
the revelation which this purely physical subject has made on the condition
of the public mind. No doubt there are many persons who have formed a
right judgment or used a cautious reserve, for I know several such, and public
communications have shown it to be so ; but their number is almost as
nothing to the great body who have believed and borne testimony, as I think,
in the cause of error. I do not here refer to the distinction of those who
agree with me and those who differ. By the great body, I mean such as reject
all consideration of the equality of cause and effect j who refer the results
to electricity and magnetism — yet know nothing of the laws of these
forces ; or to attraction — yet show no phenomena of pure attractive power j
or to the rotation of the earth, as if the earth revolved round the leg of a
table ; or to some unrecognized physical force, without inquiring whether the
known forces are not sufficient ; or who even refer them to diabolical or supernatural
agency, rather than suspend their judgment, or acknowledge to
themselves that they are not learned enough in these matters to decide on the
nature of the action. I think the system of education that could leave the
mental condition of the public body in the state in which this subject has
found it must have been greatly deficient in some very important principle.
I am, sir, your very obedient servant,
Royal Institution, June 28, 1853. M. FARADAY.

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Re: THE TABLE-TURNING DELUSION Prof Faraday

Post by Admin on Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:36 pm

Hi All,

It is interesting that it was a letter that Prof Robert Hare wrote in to the Philadelphia papers in 1853 in support of Faraday that led him down the path of Invesigation and to the development of the machines shown in another topic (in thh area History of Spiritualism Robert Hare's Spiritual Telegraph). Below is a quote from his marvellous book of 1855, “The Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestation"
"122. THE first fruit of my attention to the phenomena of table turning, was the following letter. I trust I shall not be considered as self-complacent, when I allege it to be an exemplification of wise ignorance, which is about equivalent to folly. The wisest man who speaks in ignorance, speaks foolishly to the ears of those who perceive his ignorance. The great mass of men of science appear in this light to spiritualists when they argue against Spiritualism. Men who are only nominally Know Nothings have proved a formidable party in politics; unfortunately, Spiritualism has, in its most active opponents, real Know Nothings, who will not admit any fact of a spiritual origin, unless such as they have been educated to believe. In that case, many have powers of intellectual deglutition rivalling those of the anaconda in the physical way. Letter in reply to an Inquiry respecting the influence of Electricity in Table Turning. PHILADELPHIIA, July 27, 1853.
123. "'Dear Sir: I am of opinion that it is utterly impossible for six or eight, or any number of persons, seated around a table, to produce an electric current. Moreover, I am confident that if by any adequate means an electrical current were created, however forcible, it could not be productive of table turning. A dry wooden table is almost a non-conductor, but if forming a link necessary to complete a circuit between the sky and earth, it might possibly be shattered by a stroke of lightning; but if the power of all the galvanic apparatus ever made was to be collected in one current, there would be no power to move or otherwise affect such a table.
124. "Frictional electricity, such as produced by electric machines, must first be accumulated and then discharged, in order to produce any striking effect. It is in transits that its power is seen and felt. * It is suggested that these words may be misapprehended. I use them in the sense given by Johnson: "Sight of any thing, comnmosnly mental view." Ilunderstand that evidence to be intuitive which is obtained by the simultaneous action of the mind and the sight, and, of course, of any other of the senses. Intuitive is derived from the Latin word ilntno, to look upon. "Intuere cceluin," according to Cicero, means to look at the sky.
125. "Insulated conductors, whether inanimate, or in the form of animals, may be electrified by the most powerful means, without being injured or seriously incommoded. Before a spark do lightning passes, every object on the terrestrial surface, for a great distance' around, is subjected to a portion of the requisite previous accumulation. Yet it is only those objects which are made the medium of discharge that are sensibly affected.
126. "Powerful galvanic accumulation can only be produced by those appropriate
arrangements which concentrate upon a comparatively small filament of particles their peculiar polarizing power; but nothing seems to me more inconsistent with experience than to suppose a table moved by any possible form or mode of galvanic reaction. It was ascertained by Gaziot that one of the most powerful galvanic batteries ever made could not give a spark before contact to a conductor presented to it, at the smallest distance which could be made by a delicate micrometer. If there is any law which is pre-eminent for its invariability, it is, that inanimate matter cannot, per se, change its state as respects motion or rest. Were this law liable to any variation, we should be proportionably liable to perish; since in that case the revolutions and rotations of our planet and its satellite might undergo perturbations by which the ocean might inundate the land, or the too great proximity or remoteness of the sun cause us to be scorched or frozen. If the globe did not carry the Pacific more steadily than the most competent person could carry a basin of water, we should be drowned by the overflow of the land. I recommend to your attention, and that of others interested in this hallucination, Faraday's observations and experiments, recently published in some of our respectable newspapers. I entirely concur in the conclusions of that distinguished experimental expounder of Nature's riddles. ROBERT HARE."
127. This publication drew forth the following remonstrance in the subjoined letter, which does great credit to the correctness of the author's observation and sagacity. It contributed, together with a personal invitation from Dr. Comstock to attend a circle, to induce the investigation upon which I entered immediately afterward. SOUTHWICK, MASS., Nov. 17, 1853.
128. "Dear Sir: I had the pleasure of a slight acquaintance with you, something less than twenty years ago, when I exhibited telescopes in Philadelphia. You will, I trust, excuse the liberty I take in writing to you now. I have seen your letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer upon table moving. I never believed it was caused by electricity or galvanism, but is it not as likely to be these, as muscular force? You agree with Professor Faraday that the table is moved by the hands that are on it. Now I know, as certainly as I can know any thing, that this is not true in general, if it is in any instance. There is as much evidence that tables sometimes move without any person near them, as that they sometimes move with hands on them. I cannot in this case doubt the evidence of my senses. I have seen tables move, and heard tunes beat on them, when no person was within several feet of them. This fact is proof positive that the force or power'is not muscular.
129. "If any further evidence was necessary to set aside Professor Faraday's explanation, it is found in abundance in the great variety of other facts taking place through the country, such as musical instruments being played upon without any hands touching them, and a great variety of other heavy articles being moved without any visible cause. If tables never moved except when hands were on them, the case would be different; but as they do move, both with and without hands, it is plain that the true cause remains yet to be discovered.
130. I wish, sir, that you had leisure and opportunity to witness some other phases of this matter, which seem not yet to have fallen under your notice, and I think you would be satisfied that there is less' hallucination' and'self-deception' about it, than you have imagined. The intelligence connected with these movements has not been accounted for.
131. "If these things can be accounted for on scientific principles, would it not be a great acquisition to science, to discover what those prinples are? If, however, science cannot discover them, the public are deeply interested in knowing the fact. It is certainly of great importance that these strange things that are taking place everywhere should be explained. It is affecting the churches seriously; whether for good or for evil is uncertain until the truth is known. No cause has yet been assigned that does not imply a greater absurdity than even to believe, as many do, that it is caused by spirits either good or bad, or both.
132. "I have examined this matter for the last three years with as much carefulness as possible, and am not satisfied. If the force is not muscular, as it is certain that it is not, I wish science to try again. Yours, respectfully, AMASA HOLCOMBE."
133. It will be perceived that the letter alluded to by Mr. Holcombe, written in reply to some inquiries respecting my opinion of the cause of table turning, was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, in July, 1853. This letter will show that I was at that time utterly incredulous of any cause of the phenomena excepting unconscious muscular action on the part of the persons with whom the phenomena were associated. The inferences of Faraday, tending to the same conclusion, I thoroughly sanctioned.
134. As no allusion to spirits as the cause had been made by this Herculean investigator in the letter which drew forth mine, they were not contemplated in my view of the subject. Had I ever heard spiritual agency assigned as a cause, so great was my disbelief of any such agency, that it would have made no impression on my memory.
135. Though present on several occasions when table turning was the subject of discussion, it was not, within my hearing, attributed to spiritual agency. In common with almost all educated persons of the nineteenth century, I had been brought up deaf to any testimony which claimed assistance from supernatural causes, such as ghosts, magic, or witchcraft.
136. Subsequently to my publication corroborating the inferences of Faraday, having, in obedience to solicitations already cited, consented to visit circles in which spiritual manifestations were alleged to be made, I was conducted to a private house at which meetings for spiritual inquiry were occasionally held.
137. Seated at a table with half a dozen persons, a hymn was sung with religious zeal and solemnity. Soon afterward tappings were distinctly heard as if made beneath and against the table, which, from the perfect stillness of every one of the party, could not be attributed to any one among them. Apparently, the sounds were such as could only be made with some hard instrument, or with the ends of fingers aided by the nails.
138. I learned that simple queries were answered by means of these manifestations; one tap being considered as equivalent to a negative; two, to doubtful; and three, to an affirmative. With the greatest apparent sincerity, questions were put and answers taken and recorded, as if all concerned considered them as coming from a rational though invisible agent.
139. Subsequently, two media sat down at a small table, (drawer removed,) which, upon careful examination, I found to present to my inspection nothing but the surface of a bare board, on the under side as well as upon the upper. Yet the taps were heard as before, seemingly against the table. Even assuming the people by whom I was surrounded, to be capable of deception, and the feat to be due to jugglery, it was still inexplicable. But manifestly I was in a company of worthy people, who were themselves under a deception if these sounds did not proceed from spiritual agency. "

So in one way Faraday had a beneficial effect by being the unwitting cause of Robert Hare's conversion to Spiritualism.

Cheers

Jim

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