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Observations placeholder

Patrick Proctor Alexander - Spiritualism: A Narrative with a Discussion – 06 Levitation



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


Mr. Home then said he thought we might now, with fair prospect of success, proceed to the phenomena of — as I think he phrased it — levitation. And before proceeding, he said that, if at any crisis of the Seance I or any one had suspicions of practice under the table, we were welcome to go under it again, and remain there, if we so pleased. He also very particularly begged that we should not, on any point of delicacy towards his supposed feeling in the matter — as if evil suspicion of him were implied — refrain from testing the phenomena in any way that might occur to us. There was nothing, he said, to conceal : he courted inquiry, for which he would give every facility; and the more stringent the tests we could devise, the better he, for his part, should be pleased; — all which, it is in candour to be admitted, seemed quite fair and above board.

Mr. Home then desired that any one of the company would say, addressing the table (not him — he having nothing whatever to do with it), ' Be light ! ' ; tilt it from beneath ; then say to it, ‘ Be heavy ! ' and proceed to again tilt it.

 This was done, with the following result.

‘ Be light ! ‘ said the operator; and the table, when softly solicited, moved readily from beneath his fingers.

‘ Be heavy’ & presto the table seemed weighted to the floor with lead, and could only at all be moved by a great expenditure of force. Every one of the party in succession tried this : Dr. Findlater carefully twice ; I twice, with scrupulous care, and invariably with the above results.

On my trying the experiment the second time, — of course, if possible, with some additional care and 'scruple’, — it actually seemed to me that the table sprang from under my fingers, almost before the initial touch could take the form of distinct pressure — the difficulty of moving it afterwards being well-nigh, in proportion, great. These results seemed certainly curious, as to every one quite unaccountable. The last person who tried was a clergyman (I forget of what particular persuasion), who, though he had seen the thing once before, was still very obstinately sceptical.

'Be light!’ said the reverend man, and tilted the table very readily.

‘Be heavy!’ he then said ; and, shifting his hands surreptitiously, so as to get a good strong purchase, he succeeded in raising the table with much less effort than could be apparent to those of the company who had not chanced to observe his little dodge.

Mr. Home had, however, done so ; and he said, ‘I beg your pardon, sir ; but I don't think that last time you quite gave the table fair play.’ This I confirmed, saying that, in order to his final lift, I had distinctly seen him shift his hands.

* Ah ! ah !' he said — a little as if caught, yet jauntily — 'very well, then, I'll try it with my little fingers.'

This he accordingly did, to his own manifest and complete discomfiture.

‘Ah! ah!’ he again said (looking this time a little like an ass) : ‘ very odd, I admit, really ; very odd ! very odd indeed ! But do you know, Mr. Home' (brisking up again a bit, as if feeling it his duty not to be put down by so mere a layman), ‘ it would be more satisfactory to my mind, if your Spirits could put such a weight on the table — say a ton — that it could not be lifted at all? Yes, decidedly, to my mind, that would be more satisfactory.'

The wisdom of this clerical remark not being to myself obvious, I ventured to say — in terms, of course, of perfect civility — that I did not think it very wise ; and that, if a single pound of weight non-natural could be proved to be induced upon the table, to every scientific purpose it was quite as good as the ton he was pleased to desire.

The source of the experience

Home, D. D.

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items


Activities and commonsteps



Being left handed
Inherited genes