Great Spiritualists and Friends
A year or so before Allan Kardec began his investigation of mediums in France, Victor Hugo, the renowned French author, was introduced to table tapping. Shortly after arriving, as a political exile, on the island of Jersey in the English Channel on August 5, 1853, Hugo and his family were entertaining Delphine de Girardin, a journalist and a childhood friend, at their home. After dinner, de Girardin suggested they experiment with some table tipping. Highly skeptical, Hugo declined. However, his wife, Adèle, agreed to it. Nothing happened that first night. They tried again the next night, but still without results.
It took another five or six nights of patiently sitting around a table before it began tapping out words, and then only after Hugo, his son Charles, and several others joined the two women. When Victor Hugo asked for an identity, the table tapped out, “d-e-a-d g-i-r-l.” When he asked for a name, the table tapped out, “l-e-o-p-o-l-d-i-n-e.” Léopoldine was Hugo’s beloved daughter, who had drowned 12 years earlier at age 19. Further questioning followed in which short answers were provided. However, Hugo remained skeptical, suggesting that the sitters somehow made the table act through their thoughts. If it were indeed a spirit, Hugo wondered how he could know for sure it was his daughter and not some impostor spirit posing as her. After a number of other sittings, he apparently came around to believe that it was his daughter’s spirit communicating.
What may have convinced Hugo was communication on December 9, 1853 from André Chénier, a French poet, who was executed at the guillotine on July 25, 1794. He tapped out the remainder of the poem he had been working on just before his execution. It was in the same style as his work when living. He also produced new poems in the highest literary style, joining together a number of the poems he wrote when alive.
Chénier told of his last moments on earth, seeing the slop basket swaying beneath his head, half-filled with blood from those executed before him, and, suddenly, hearing the odd creaking sound above his head. After the sensation that his head was falling into the slop basket, he found himself far above his headless body, his soul body being enveloped in a diaphanous sheath. He then felt the presence of his mother and mistress. He observed a luminous line separating his head from his body as his head rolled into the gutter and his body was dragged away.
During February 1854, the Jersey circle made contact with a spirit identifying himself as Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism. Hugo asked Luther why God does not better reveal himself, to which Luther replied: “Because doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit. If the day were to come when the human spirit no longer doubted, the human soul would fly off and leave the plough behind, for it would have acquired wings. The earth would lie fallow. Now, God is the sower and man the harvester. The celestial seed demands that the human ploughshare remain in the furrow of life.”
Still, Hugo continued to ask other spirits the same question, finally deciding that he wasn’t going to ask again. “It’s becoming obvious to me,” he wrote, “from what the table said this evening – and on several other occasions as well – that this world of the sublime, which has consented to communicate with our world of shadows, will not allow itself to be forced by us to reveal its secrets…The world of the sublime wants to remain sublime.”